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The Melrose-Rugby and Riverland areas could become eligible for tax credits for renovations.
Saturday, April 20, 2013
The state is considering adding two Roanoke neighborhoods to the National Register of Historic Places, along with several blocks to the west and south of downtown.
If the Department of Historic Resources approves, the designation could let people in Melrose-Rugby and Riverland neighborhoods and the edges of downtown tap the historic tax credits that have funded millions of dollars’ worth of renovation elsewhere in the city.
The designation itself would not impose new rules on what people do with their property. That only comes through special zoning rules, and the city has no plans to impose those, said Chris Chittum, director of planning, building and development.
Department of Historic Resources staff have already given a thumbs-up to the designation, which will go before the department’s board in June. If the board approves, the applications go to the National Park Service for consideration. If things stay on track, the neighborhoods could be formally listed on the register this summer.
“A lot of people don’t realize the historic significance of the neighborhood they live in,” said Michael Pulice, of the historic resources department’s western regional office.
“Hopefully, this will help foster awareness and pride.”
Roanoke asked the state to consider adding parts of the Riverland neighborhood between Mill Mountain Park and the Roanoke River to the register to recognize its role housing workers at a time when the city’s industries saw skyrocketing growth.
Riverland’s homes mostly date from the 1920s, built to house many of the thousands who came to the city when the American Viscose plant opened in 1917 and grew rapidly through the 1920s.
The neighborhood’s path to the designation started 15 years ago, when planners eyed it as a possible route for Interstate 73, a proposed highway between Michigan and South Carolina. Once residents won acknowledgment that their neighborhood was eligible, planners looked elsewhere.
Most of the homes in Melrose-Rugby also date to the 1920s.
Of the 141 buildings in the district, which is centered on Rugby Boulevard and is bounded roughly by 10th and 14th streets on the east and west and Grayson and Mercer avenues to the north and south, a total of 113 are historic, the city believes.
Most are homes, but the list includes the Abundant Grace Assembly church on Rugby, a Gothic Revival building from 1930.
The city also has asked, and the state is considering, expanding the downtown historic district to include the 300 and 400 blocks of Church and Luck avenues southwest, the 600 and 700 blocks of South Jefferson Street, and the WSLS building on Third Street and a commercial building at 502 Fifth St. S.W.
The expanded area includes the 1925 Gothic-Revival style First Christian Church, the 1924 Classical-Revival style Central Church of the Brethren and the 1919 Classical-Revival style Church of Christian Science on Church Avenue.
The former YMCA Central branch also is in the expanded area.
The Luck Avenue blocks include Schwartz Restaurant Supply, with its art deco brickwork, while the expanded district also would include the Roanoke City Public Library, which was built in the International style and helped Roanoke win its 1952 citation as an All American City.
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