Scott Tempel, City Planner

Northfield has one of the finest historic districts in the state. Our downtown has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1979, but many people are still unsure what this means. Listing on the National Register does not mean that the Federal Government wants to acquire the property, place restrictive covenants on the land, or dictate the color or materials used on individual buildings. The National Park Service administers the National Register of Historic Places, which is the official Federal list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture. National Register properties have significance to the history of their community, state, or the nation.

Building owners often ask how National Register designation will affect their property. From the Federal perspective, a property owner can do whatever they want with their property as long as there are no Federal monies attached to the property. However, the downtown district is also a locally designated heritage preservation site. This local designation means that no zoning certificate or building permit for construction, exterior alteration or rehabilitation, moving, or demolition of a building or structure shall be issued until the project has been reviewed by the Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC). The HPC ensures that all projects are in harmony with the District and that they are consistent with the Downtown Preservation Design Guidelines.

So what do property owners get for this additional layer of review? One of the big benefits is a 20% federal investment tax credit for preservation projects. There is a state rehab tax credit that mirrors the 20% federal historic preservation tax credit and must be used in conjunction with the federal credit. Property owners who are undertaking a historic rehabilitation project are eligible to receive a state income tax credit up to 20% of qualifying rehabilitation expenses. Owners may also elect to receive a grant in lieu of a credit equal to 90% of the allowable credit.

There are also various preservation grants available for historic properties. These grants can be used for historic research, project planning, or to stabilize, restore, preserve, reconstruct and/or make accessible eligible buildings. Additionally, owners have access to a wide variety of information on the care and maintenance of their property.

Northfield’s downtown is a unique and valuable asset to the community. The City and the HPC are working diligently to ensure its continued preservation.