Greenwood considers historic district

In a section near downtown Greenwood, some of the homes are more than 150 years old, and the city wants to get homeowners some help fixing and maintaining them.

City officials are considering adding a section of the city with more than 200 homes to the National Register of Historic Places. Many of those homes in the area, northeast of Main Street and U.S. 31 and including homes on both sides of Madison Avenue, were built in the mid-19th century, which could qualify them to be added to the national registry, planning director Bill Peeples said.

Adding the homes to the registry wouldn’t stop residents from making changes to their properties or selling, but they could qualify for tax credits to pay for renovations and restorations of their homes, Peeples said. That could be useful for current residents and also draw more people to buy the historic homes and fix them up.

“It can become a magnet for people who enjoy coming in and restoring an area to its historical roots,” Peeples said.

The process has multiple steps and would require agreement from a majority of residents. For now, the city’s top priority is finalizing plans and pursuing grants for revitalizing downtown, which could include rebuilding the façades of historic buildings around Main Street and Madison Avenue,

making downtown more

pedestrian-friendly and easing

traffic issues.

Once that work is underway, possibly next spring or early summer, then the city will consider moving forward with the National Register of Historic Places application process, Peeples said. The projects support each other by encouraging more people to move to and invest money in the city, he added.

“The hope is (that) you snowball,” he said.

Greenwood officials started talking and meeting with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources early this year when they were interested in having the Polk building, which is the former city hall on Madison Avenue, added to the national registry. The state inspected the building and determined it had too many upgrades and renovations to qualify for the registry.

But state officials said that the nearby neighborhood, with houses that were built in the 1800s, could qualify.

Before the neighborhood can be added to the registry, all of the houses in the proposed area need to be inspected to see if they meet the registry’s standards. Not all will meet the requirements, and city officials need to know the number that do, Peeples said.

He said most of the area’s residents would need to be in favor of applying to become part of the national registry, and it will be up to the city to educate them so they know what joining the national registry means and what it doesn’t.

Some central Indiana neighborhoods, such as Fountain Square in Indianapolis, have local historical registries and societies that include restrictions and requirements residents have to follow as they alter their properties. Joining the national registry wouldn’t prohibit residents from making changes to their properties, Peeples said. Residents also need to know about the potential benefits, including the tax credits they could qualify for, that come with being listed on the registry, he said.

“If we do a proper job in education, (objections) are going to be minimized,” he said.

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Here’s what it does and doesn’t mean to have a home added to the National Register of Historic Places:

  • It gives historic properties official recognition.
  • Homeowners may qualify for tax credits to rehabilitate and renovate the properties.
  • It does not prevent owners from making changes to the property.
  • It does not restrict how property is used or sold.
  • It does not mean the federal government will own the property.
  • It does not mean the property must be open to the public.

What happens now: The city will consider moving forward with the application next year, after work for the downtown revitalization project is underway.