Nick Reynolds loves his neighborhood.
The massive trees shading cobblestone streets. The historic homes set on large lots. The fact that his neighbors love their neighborhood, too.
To keep it that way, Reynolds and a group of neighbors renewed a grassroots effort earlier this year to preserve the neighborhood’s vibe while also giving them access to tax incentives and grants to help ease the financial cost of home restoration.
Ballots went out on Sept. 15 to residents of what could be the Cannon Streetcar Suburb Historic District.
At least 50% of the residents of the area from Sixth Avenue south to 13th Avenue must vote yes and mail their ballots by Nov. 11 for the historic designation to pass. Not returning a ballot is counted as a no vote.
The designation would increase property values due to the cohesiveness of the neighborhood, according to the Spokane Historic Preservation Office website.
It also promotes redevelopment with property tax incentives and facade improvement grants. Homeowners would be required to have exterior changes or new construction pass a design review.
Ian White purchased the Hans and Rosalie Moldenhauer house with his husband in 2016. The home is an “impeccably preserved” Craftsman-style house on a double lot, where the couple lives with their two border collies, Ernie and Ben.
“You’re not really the owner so much as you’re a steward in that moment,” White said of his home.
White loves living in such a historic and diverse neighborhood, and wants to keep it that way, he said. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t want new apartment complexes or homes being built; he likes that the neighborhood is dense, White said.
“This effort, in no way are we NIMBYs,” White said, using the acronym for “not in my backyard.”
New and big buildings are great, just no giant glass palaces, he said.
The process began in 2016, when a group of neighbors met with the Spokane Historic Preservation Office about protection provisions in the existing Cliff-Cannon Ninth Avenue National Register District, a largely symbolic designation. Meetings continued into 2020 about launching a historic preservation district vote, but then the COVID-19 pandemic put efforts on hold.
Reynolds, along with a core group of neighbors, relaunched the effort early this year.
Homes designated as “contributing” to the area’s history, largely those built between 1880 and 1955, would have facade changes evaluated to ensure they maintain the home’s historic characteristics, said Logan Camporeale, a historic preservation specialist at the preservation office.
Things like a new roof, windows or siding would need to pass quick review, but exterior paint colors wouldn’t need approval, he said.
Interior renovations are exempt from the review process, but money spent on interior renovations would count toward the tax incentive program. If homeowners spend 25% of the building’s assessed value on improvements within 24 months, they are eligible for a property tax discount for 10 years.
Noncontributing properties would be evaluated to make sure proposed changes are “compatible with the surrounding properties,” Camporeale said.
For new construction, evaluation usually takes six to eight weeks and can be completed while also working on other aspects of applying for a building permit. The preservation office looks at the immediate area, not the historic district as a whole, he said.
Camporeale noted the historic district designation wouldn’t change the underlying zoning or change what property owners can do with their land, it just gives consideration to compatibility of new construction.
So far, the response to the grassroots effort has been positive, White said while manning a booth at a Lower South Hill block party. People were picking up yard signs and asking thoughtful questions at the booth, he added.
Melissa Flynn and her wife, Abil Bradshaw, moved into the neighborhood last year and quickly became obsessed with their new home. It’s the nicest home they’ve ever had, Flynn said.
“We have such a sense of pride about our house,” she said.
The couple is in the process of nominating their home to the historic registry. They hope the designation will remind their neighbors and new property owners how special the area is.
“I think it will just make everyone care a little bit more,” Flynn said.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to remove unclear information about the number of locally designated historic districts.
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