Historic Preservation: to Main Street and Beyond!

As the hottest part of summer continues on, many of our thoughts may be drifting to faraway places and those of us who are lucky may be planning trips of our own. Any of my travelling buddies will confirm that no vacation of mine is complete without a tour of a historically significant downtown area. These places capture a slice of history, and increasingly showcase a renaissance of urban and small town revitalization.

Photo courtesy National Park Service
Photo courtesy National Park Service

One of my favorite places to get this experience is Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas. Walking along the Bathhouse Row historic district at the base of the park, and the extensive commercial district along Central Avenue, you get a sense of the town as it was in its heyday as a resort and spa town in the 1920’s. Federal, state and local incentives for historic preservation play a huge role in the way main streets such as Central Avenue look today. The Federal Historic Tax Credit provides a 20% tax credit while requiring the redevelopment to preserve the original architectural elements of the structure. Even though only a handful of buildings in Hot Springs have utilized the tax credit, many more have been “mothballed,” waiting for the right developer (with the right access to capital) to come along.

PolicyMap has recently added the locations of Federal Historic Tax Credit projects approved since 2001. Among them is the Quapaw Bathhouse, which after a $3.8 million renovation is now a functional spa fed by the famed hot springs that were channeled into downtown in the late 19th Century. As the flag icons on the map below demonstrate, use of the tax credit doesn’t only apply to traditional main street commercial districts. Several sites outside the Central Avenue corridor (running north-south) have completed historic projects.

Data mapped by PolicyMap, an online GIS mapping tool.

Click on the map to explore ten years of Historic Tax Credit approvals, on PolicyMap under Add Sites > Housing and Real Estate.