Downtown buildings

More than 100 buildings in downtown Beatrice are now collectively listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The historic designation comes with several potential economic benefits.

Downtown Beatrice is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The Nebraska State Historical Society announced Tuesday that the urban district centered around Court and Sixth streets was added to the register after more than eight months of research and evaluation.

Local organizations worked with the state historical society since November 2015 to document the history of buildings in Beatrice's downtown area and craft a proposal for the National Park Service, which maintains the national register.

The historic designation comes with several benefits.

"Beatrice and specifically the downtown community can now lay claim to the marketing and promotional benefits that come with being listed on the national register," Michael Sothan, executive director of Main Street Beatrice, said in a press release.

People can now search the National Park Service website's database for downtown Beatrice and find it listed on the national register. 

"People will visit specific places that are considered by the park service to be historic, so we hope it will increase tourism," Sothan said.  

"Perhaps more importantly to Beatrice leaders and downtown stakeholders are the potential economic development resources," he explained. "The majority of the downtown historic district now qualifies for state and federal historic tax credits ... (for) improvement projects of many historic building rehabilitations."

Sothan outlined three potential tax incentives that include a 10 percent rehabilitation tax credit, a 20 percent Nebraska rehabilitation tax credit and a Nebraska historic property tax freeze. He said that it depends on the type of rehabilitation a building will undergo to determine whether it qualifies for the 10 or 20 percent tax credit. The tax freeze essentially keeps the building at its original valuation so the owner doesn't have to pay extra taxes for any rehabilitation improvements.

The 20 percent credit applies only to certified historic structures, which are ones that are listed individually on the National Register of Historic Places or as contributors to the character of a national register-listed historic district. The 10 percent credit is for the rehabilitation of non-historic, non-residential buildings built before 1936. 

"All of these tools are geared to make the older buildings make more financial sense," Sothan said. "It allows projects that never would have been done to get done because the tax incentives make them make more financial sense."

He added that before the decision was even finalized there was increased interest in downtown Beatrice by different developers, making downtown Beatrice more competitive. 

Main Street Beatrice, headed by Sothan, is a downtown improvement organization, and one of the primary drivers in applying for the historic designation.

Sothan thanked the Nebraska State Historical Society, Historic Resources Group Inc., Gage County Heritage Preservation Inc., and Beatrice Public Library Director Laureen Riedesel for their extensive efforts in securing the national register listing.

"This has been a long time coming," said Riedesel, who has been working to see downtown Beatrice make the National Register of Historic Places since the 1980s. "Now we have more buildings included as contributing than we ever would have if we had been added when we first applied."

Among the recent additions to the National Register of Historic Places are two other Nebraska downtown communities: Schuyler downtown business district and Crete downtown historic district.

The recent listing of three downtowns to the National Register of Historic Places speaks to the agency's work to encourage the efforts of local economic development groups and civic leaders, according to the Nebraska State Historical Society . 

"This place is special," said Bob Puschendorf, a deputy Nebraska state historic preservation officer. "It will absolutely improve tourism." 

Within the boundary of the new downtown district are 119 historic buildings that represent Beatrice's early development from the mid-1800s through downtown revitalization efforts in the 1960s.

Daily Sun staff member Adam Rollins contributed to this report.

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