City awaits historic designation for downtown

Alex Doty • Apr 20, 2016 at 10:00 AM

Grand Haven officials are hoping to make history with a recent application for historic designation for the city’s downtown on the National Register of Historic Places.

“It’s very, very cool because we have quite a substantial district,” said Diane Sheridan, director of the Grand Haven Main Street Downtown Development Authority.

The local authority’s Main Street Preservation & Place Committee has worked for the past two years on the application process, and were aided by a service grant awarded in 2014 from the Michigan Main Street Center. This grant resulted in $47,000 worth of professional services from consultant Bill Rutter.

“They hired the consultant for us to come in and write the application,” Sheridan said. “This is a two-year application (process), so Mr. Rutter has spent a significant amount of time putting this together.”

Sheridan said the application and selection for the consultant is “a significant recognition for Grand Haven.”

Other cities in the area with their downtowns listed on the National Register of Historic Places include Holland, Allegan and Lowell, Sheridan said. Grand Rapids also has several historic districts/neighborhoods, including Heartside Historic District, Heritage Hill and the Ledyard Block.

The National Register is the official list of the nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register is part of a program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect America's historic and archeological resources.

Sheridan said 117 buildings in Grand Haven are identified in the application, with construction dates ranging from 1840 to 1965. The coal tipple along Jackson Street is also being submitted for listing in the National Register with its own application.

According to Sheridan, the application includes historic information about each property that Rutter was able to discover during the two-year process.

“It has been phenomenal the information we’ve received back,” she said, noting that some information wasn’t yet featured in archives at the local museum or library.

Benefits of the designation include a listing in the National Register Archives; the encouragement of preservation of historic resources; and opportunities for specific preservation incentives such as federal preservation grants for planning and rehabilitation, federal investment tax credits, preservation easements to non-profit organizations, and other possible state funding opportunities.

“Another key component is cultural tourism, (which) is a growing phenomenon in the U.S.,” Sheridan said. “I think the other thing is the value of knowing who you are and a better appreciation of our own community.”

A listing on the National Register places no restrictions on private property, Sheridan noted.

The city’s application will be submitted to the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office for review on May 6. Afterward, the application will be sent to the National Parks Service for consideration.

Sheridan said she anticipates hearing back about the city’s application by the end of the year, and will plan for a ribbon-cutting celebration downtown once the status is achieved.

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