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Part of downtown Brunswick eyed for historic designation

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Part of downtown Brunswick eyed for historic designation

BRUNSWICK — The Brunswick Downtown Association is considering nominating the Maine Street area between Pleasant and Mason streets for the National Register of Historic Places.

The designation could open up the area, which includes several buildings dating to the early 19th and 20th centuries, for state and federal tax incentives for building rehabilitation.

The BDA is holding a meeting on Feb. 7 at 5:30 p.m. in the Morrill Meeting Room at Curtis Memorial Library for property and business owners who could be affected by such a move.

"Brunswick already has at least a dozen individual properties listed on the National Register and it has three separate historic districts," Annie Robinson, a member of BDA's Design Committee, told the Town Council last week. "But this will be the first one that will honor and value the core of the public and retail sector of our town."

Robinson said a steering committee has been formed for the initiative and based on public feedback, the committee will then decide whether to nominate Maine Street.

If granted, the designation would make developers in the approved area eligible for state and federal tax credits for building rehabilitation. But their work would have to conform to federal guidelines – a process the Maine Historic Preservation Commission assists to ensure no mistakes are made.

"It's a process where they work very closely with our office so they can ensure they can execute their project that's consistent with the guidelines," said Christi Mitchell, the commission's National Register coordinator. "We review all of our project specs. It's a very intensive process."

The National Register is a federal program of the U.S. Park Service that was authorized in 1966. According to its website, it exists to "coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archaeological resources."

Mitchell said the BDA approached her to see if anywhere on Maine Street could be considered a historic district in the National Register. Based on photos and descriptions of buildings, and her office's research, she said she was able to determine the area between Mason and Pleasant streets is eligible.

"The thing to know about the National Register is that it's a federal program to recognize those properties that are significant in American culture, history, architecture, and engineering, and merit preservation," Mitchell said.

According to the National Register's website, the process of nominating a district or building begins with an individual or group checking for its eligibility with the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, based on "age, integrity, and significance," and then filing a nomination form.

The deadline for the nomination form is no less than 12 weeks before one of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission's Review Board's meetings, held in January, April, July and October of each year and open to the public, according to the commission's website.

If the commission nominates the building or district, the U.S. National Park Service will make a final decision within 45 days.

Despite the federal guidelines imposed on developers seeking state or federal tax incentives, Mitchell said there are no rules imposed on developers who don't use the incentives.

Claudia Knox, a BDA board member who helped spearhead the initiative, said being listed on the National Register has some other benefits, too.

"Then you can brag about some of the existing buildings and then you can inspire some people to do a facade of restorations," Knox said. "It makes the district's character better over time."

The town currently has 12 buildings and three districts listed in the National Register, according to a database on the National Register website.

Mitchell said some of the buildings or buildings within the districts have successfully applied for state or federal tax incentives. She said the Mitchell Double House on Park Row is undergoing rehabilitation thanks to state and federal tax incentives.

The tax incentives are only available to businesses, she said, not homeowners.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or dmartin@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.

Note: The article has been updated to reflect the correct start time for BDA's Feb. 7 meeting.