As the Magnolia State blooms, what’s been going on in the historic preservation world this last week?
Several articles have highlighted the Legislature’s last-minute re-authorization (seems like the Leg did a lot of last-minute stuff this year) of the historic preservation tax credit. As you may recall, the new legislation establishes some new guidelines for the credit, including a $12 million annual cap and, very unfortunately, the elimination of “single-family residences” from eligibility. The Mississippi Business Journal was the first out of the gates, following up on its very helpful story back in March with “Restocked historic tax credits give new life to restoration projects.” Listing projects that have stalled because of the last year of limbo, including the old Eastland federal building in Jackson and Veterans’ Hospital in Gulfport, the article by Ted Carter also notes that historic preservation incentives return money to the state and local economy.
The state’s $60 million credits generated $269 million in building rehab expenditures since their inception in 2006 and a total economic output of $432.5 million, according to an economic impact report prepared by Mississippi State University’s Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development.
The article goes on to delve into the drawbacks of only focusing on commercial projects:
[Lolly] Barnes, the Heritage Trust chief, said the decision to keep non-revenue producing residential restorations from eligibility diminishes an holistic approach to preserving Mississippi’s past. “It’s very disappointing because we need to look at our historic communities as a whole,” she said. “That was the one incentive we had to offer people who buy and take on these historic homes.”
[Hayes] Dent said he expects the exclusion of single-family dwellings from the historic tax credits will have particular impacts in such historic cities as Vicksburg and Natchez.
Add Tupelo to that list, along with practically every other town of any size in the state, according to the Daily Journal article, “Tax credit change could impact Mill Village.” One of the few relatively intact company-built neighborhoods in the state, Tupelo’s Mill Village was listed on the National Register in 1992 and consists of simple shotgun houses and bungalows constructed for workers at Tupelo Cotton Mills beginning in the early 20th century. According to the article by Caleb Bedillion,
“Politicians talk about trying to help out the little guy, but this does nothing for the little guy,” said Doyce Deas, chair of the Tupelo Historic District Commission.
. . . .
In the original 2006 version of the credit program, rehabilitation of single-family homes could qualify for credits. SB 2922 removed the eligibility of those single-family residences.
Deas said this hurts preservation efforts throughout the state.
“Most of the people who try to do projects like this are just normal folks that want to preserve a property, and they need all the help they can get,” she said.
One of the renovation projects that’s moving again is the Capitol Art Lofts in downtown Jackson, which will renovate many of the low-rise, early twentieth century commercial buildings across from the King Edward Hotel on West Capitol Street. The same developer that renewed the King Ed, HRI Properties of New Orleans, will “transform” seven of the buildings, many of which have been vacant for several years.
Capitol Art Lofts calls for apartments geared to be affordable for creative persons, ranging from artists to those working in the healing arts of medicine.
Architectural historians from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History spent last Tuesday photographing the interior of the Threefoot Building, the Art Deco skyscraper in downtown Meridian. This is yet another good indication that the building may soon indeed come back to life, this time as a hotel.
According to the Meridian Star article “A Closer Look” by Billy Graham:
Jennifer Baughn, chief architectural historian with MDAH, said the agency was on site to document the building’s interior, with an emphasis on its architectural features.
“We document buildings all over the state,” she said. “Usually, we’re looking at the outside of the buildings, but for a building like this, the inside is so important. We’ll be reviewing the plans that come through for this building, so that will help us as we look at changes that will have to occur for it to be put back into use. It will also be a good archival document for the future.”
Get a view inside the Threefoot for yourself, courtesy of this WTOK report by Amicia Ramsey. See the full video here. According to the reports, these photos will soon be available on the MDAH Historic Resources Database, so we can all see them–great!
On a sadder note, the Associated Press headline “Heavy rains cause slide at Winterville Mounds park” has bad news about a large Indian mound, Mound A, at Winterville Mounds Archaeological Park north of Greenville, owned and operated by MDAH. One of twelve mounds and two plazas at the prehistoric ceremonial site,
A section about 24 feet wide, 18 feet deep and 100 feet long sloughed off in one sheet from the northwest side of Mound A. It slid to the base of the 55-foot-high earthwork.
. . . .
“These mounds were originally constructed in stages with layers of dirt capped by thinner layers of clay,” said Department of Archives and History chief archaeologist Pam Lieb. “This slide was caused when rainwater seeped down from the top, saturating this large chunk of the mound and making it heavy enough to slip away at one of those seams of clay.”
According to the MDAH web page about the park:
At 55 feet, Mound A is among the ten tallest in the United States, roughly the same height as a five story building. Until modern construction techniques were developed, it was the highest point between Emerald Mound in Natchez and the great mounds at Cahokia, Illinois. From its top you can see the Mississippi River to the west. The river’s course has shifted over the centuries but it was only a mile away when the mounds were constructed.
And . . . last but not least, remember that May is officially Historic Preservation Month in the United States and be on the lookout for special events in your area. As usual, Biloxi has a full slate of events planned (even spilling into June) and has done a great job of getting the word out via the SunHerald. We try to keep up on our MissPres calendar, which appears in the right sidebar, and more fully on Google, but if you know of an event we’re missing let us know.