New historical program in works

By BROOKE STEVENSON
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE — A new program could help to maintain historical structures throughout the city.
The program, which will be a collaboration between the Historical and Cultural Commission, the Engineering Department, Mayor Joseph Peterson, the City Council and the Department of Planning Commission, will help to identify and preserve historically and architecturally significant structures in the city.
“It is important to maintain Wyandotte’s historical, cultural and architectural identity” said Don Schultz, president of the Historical and Cultural Commission.
He added that his group was concerned about the future plans for several architecturally significant homes that have been placed for sale or acquisition due to the economic climate.
“The preservation of viable historical structures has many benefits,” he said.
Those benefits, according to Schultz, include bringing new residents to the city, creating a new tax base and creating jobs through the rehabilitation process.
“The city’s historical character is unique,” he said, “and the historical and architectural integrity of the city’s neighborhoods and downtown areas need to be maintained to encourage future growth and encourage healthy economic development.”
The Historical Commission proposes the adoption of a program similar to the city’s program through which houses are purchased and the lots split and sold between neighbors.
“However, this new program would allow the city to purchase historic homes and resell them to people for a nominal sum, with specific guidelines that the homes be restored,” Schultz said.
A process would be established where the Engineering Department and a Cultural and Historical Commission liaison will identify properties appropriate for the program.
All city-owned properties, including those set for demolition, would be reviewed and considered for inclusion. Materials would be salvaged from buildings that ultimately would have to be demolished for use in the restoration of other historical structures.
Currently, the commission is given the right to go into any city-owned property set for demolition to see if any materials in the building can be salvaged. Under the new program they could gain access earlier, possibly even before a purchase agreement.
Schultz also asked that the program include a process to secure homes that have been, or will be, acquired by the city to reduce the possibility of theft.
“In the past, homes have been stripped of valuable contents before the Historical Commission even inspects them,” he said. “It really bothers me when we walk into these houses and they have been stripped.
“The police can’t do everything. I’m asking everybody out there to look for (thefts).
“I mean, it takes a lot of work to get this stuff out of these places. Pick up the phone and call the police.”
The creation of historical districts throughout the city also may be a possibility, since many tax credits for restoring historical properties can only be used if the property is in one of these districts.
A subcommittee of the Historical and Cultural Commission was formed about seven months ago to try to identify historical structures throughout the city.
The committee, in conjunction with the Engineering Department, will form a database of historical structures, so that as soon as officials consider purchasing a building, they will know right away if it is considered historical or not.
“This is the first step in getting people thinking about the idea,” Schultz said.
The Historical and Cultural Commission will present more detailed ideas to the council in the future.
“There is a lot of historical presence in our community, and that is what the commission is trying to do, to really keep that growing,” said Councilwoman Sheri Sutherby-Fricke. “They don’t want it to be a dying breed.”

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