There is a new downtown historic district proposal that is under development that might include the building that houses the 40 Watt Club and the Hot Corner African American businesses.
As reported in the Athens Banner-Herald, property owners are not sure whether they want the district, Athens-Clarke County planning staff told county commissioners.
A historic district designation would mean design standards would be in place to preserve the area’s historic character and can also offer tax incentives like an eight-year freeze on property tax assessments.
Planners started to study the area’s history when the Athens-Clarke Commission sought out a one-year demolition moratorium for downtown back in February.
Planners added areas north of Dougherty Street and west of Pulaski when they saw some of the historic structures in those areas, he said. The expanded area would include buildings such as the First A.M.E. Church on Hull Street, which is over 160 years old.
District 3 Commissioner Melissa Link wondered how many of the opposed property owners were out-of-town landlords, who don’t have the same kind of stake in the area’s future as local business owners.
“It’s the one part of downtown that’s still an arts and music holdout,” she said. “It’s as much about cultural preservation as about historic preservation.”
Property values have risen drastically along with building heights.
Rising property taxes have had a “dire” impact on downtown businesses, raising the pressure on landlords to increase rents, Link said.
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