In pursuing designation as a historic district by the National Register of Historic Places, supporters must continue their efforts to educate homeowners and retail businesses in Elmwood Village.
Without that effort, misunderstanding and mistrust could prevent the neighborhood from taking part in a state tax credit program meant to spur economic opportunity.
To be eligible for the 20 percent state tax credit - some commercial property owners qualify for 40 percent in state and federal tax credits - property must be in a designated historic district.
The survey of the district put together by Clinton Brown Architecture shows the rich history of Elmwood Village, with houses dating back to the 1800s. It would be one of the largest historic districts in the state, according to Thomas J. Yots, executive director of Buffalo Niagara Preservation, which is sponsoring the nomination.
The historic tax credit program would be available to property owners interested in improving their buildings. The program will help pay for those improvements while preserving the neighborhood and putting people to work.
Proponents of the designation have it right in touting the state historic tax credit program as a way to boost property values and improve the appearance of a neighborhood. These should be the goals of a thriving neighborhood.
The tax credit would apply to improvements that follow certain historic guidelines. No one would be forced to participate in the program. Property owners could still make improvements that don't follow the guidelines, but they would not be eligible for the tax credit. The intent is not to impede building owners, but to give them an incentive to be historically accurate.
What is not being sought is a much more restrictive local designation similar to that of Buffalo's Allentown neighborhood. Property owners in those neighborhoods may have to get board approval for even the most minor alterations.
That difference has been the source of some opposition to the historic designation, and that is why continued communication is critical. Proponents have so far done a good job in that area, but have heard through public meetings concerns from residential and commercial property owners who fear possible new government restrictions. Property owners should be relieved to know that participation would be voluntary, and should lead to increased property values.
The historic district process is moving along, and the nomination is expected to be voted on Sept. 20 by the State Board for Historic Preservation. If it passes muster there, the case moves on to the State Register and then to the National Park Service for final review and near-certain listing on the National Register. It is expected to take six months.
Elmwood Village should get behind the chance for historic designation.