Washington School Board members agreed at their July meeting that they would like more clarity on what it would mean if Fifth Street Elementary were added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The city of Washington, in partnership with Downtown Washington, Inc., is seeking grant funds to nominate properties for the Fifth Street Historic District. Fifth Street Elementary is one property that was identified as eligible for listing in the National Register based on historic significance and integrity.
Board members were concerned that once the building was added to the register, it would be difficult to make upgrades or improvements to the building.
According to a letter to the district, a listing “places no obligation on private property owners. There are no restrictions on the use, treatment, transfer or disposition of private property.”
Bridgette Epple, executive director of Downtown Washington Inc., said listing would not hinder the property in any way.
Instead, she said, listing would be a recognition of the property’s significant value to the community, would make it eligible for federal and state tax incentives, would qualify the building for grants and would mean consideration when there is a federal undertaking.
“The national register is a really wonderful list you can be nominated for and listed on if you have historic significance. It offers the opportunity to utilize tax credits for future developments,” she said, adding that the listing does not require anything of the property owners.
The only way there would be any other more stringent guidelines, she said, would be if the city of Washington enacted them, but Washington has no such guidelines.
“We want to research and have the proper history of the building, as well as research the historical significance of the area so we can create a contiguous district to be put on the national register,” Epple said, adding that it is easier to list a district with multiple buildings than to file individual nominations on each property in a district.
“This just allows us to take account for what we have as far as historical amenities in town and to be aware of what we have. I feel it’s very positive.”
A motion to pursue the research phase of the project only and not be bound to any national registry until information can be reviewed passed unanimously.
The decision will allow a consultant to research and document the history of the school.
Research will include investigating public records and photographing the exterior of the building.
If the building is placed on the register, grants and federal tax credits may be available for rehabilitation. State tax benefits and grant opportunities also may be available.