By TONY GUERRERO
The Grow Ellis Downtown Committee is looking to apply for historic district designation for downtown Ellis.
Amy Burton, City Clerk and member of the Ellis Grow Downtown Committee, said the Ellis City Council has discussed revitalization for as long as she can remember.
"We had a developer purchase some downtown buildings to renovate, and he asked the city to consider a historic district designation," Burton said.
The developer made mention of the success of the Historic Chestnut Street District in downtown Hays.
The process would begin with a preservation specialist conducting surveys on each building within the chosen area to assess its significance.
"Not all the buildings need to have historic value, the buildings in the area selected can have significance either historically or aesthetically," Burton said.
There are about 75 buildings within the area that the Grow Committee has chosen, with the cost of surveying each building estimated at about $200, totaling about $15,000.
The Grow Committee is applying for a grant through the Kansas State Historical Society that can assist in paying for a preservation specialist as well as 65 percent of the surveys conducted.
Burton said the review process can last up to five months. the committee is aiming to conduct surveys by this summer. The surveys will then be evaluated by the Kansas Historic Sites Board of Review before being sent to the National Register office in Washington, D.C.
Once the survey is completed, the Grow Committee will have a better idea of what buildings will be included in the historic district designation.
"As far as potential advantages, the designated historic district will provide eligibility to the property owners for state and federal rehabilitation tax credits as well as some grants," Burton said.
Buildings within the designated district will also be eligible for a 100 percent incremental tax rebate.
Drawbacks to having a historic district include the need for approval from the historic preservation office for property improvements to maintain features. This can be a lengthy process.
"If they require you to keep specific elements or do things a certain way like restricting types of materials, it could end up costing the property owner more than if they were just going do it on their own," she said.
A Hays investor spoke to the committee and shared his experience with the historic district designation. He said the tax credits received outweigh the disadvantages of prolonging projects.
Securing the historic district designation would highlight the significance of Ellis and its offerings, a recognition that Burton said would be favorable.
The Ellis Congregational Church, the Chrysler Home and the Memorial City Hall (now the Railroad Museum) are among the three buildings already recognized as eligible.
"Ellis has a lot of great history," Burton said. "This designation would offer a sense of pride that the state and federal historical review boards will find Ellis as unique and special as we do."