How many historic structures and neighborhoods adorn Colorado Springs? There has never been a comprehensive and complete neighborhood-by-neighborhood account of those resources, but that might soon change for many of the city’s older neighborhoods.
The reason? It’s good business.
Property owners in designated historic districts might be able to take advantage of a Colorado state income tax credit equal to 20 percent of “qualified rehabilitation expenditures,” up to a maximum credit of $50,000 payable during a 10-year period.
To qualify, the property must be at least 50 years old, a local landmark or listed on the state register of historic places.
Currently eligible properties in the Pikes Peak Region include those listed on the state’s or National Register of Historic Properties, as well as contributing properties in the Manitou Springs, Old North End, Boulder Crescent, Weber-Wahsatch and Old Colorado City historic districts.
But people with historic homes or commercial properties in the Westside, Patty Jewett, Hillside or Ivywild/Cheyenne Canyon, aren’t eligible — at least for the time being.
Listing a stand-alone property on the state or national register is expensive, time-consuming and frequently unsuccessful. Criteria for listing with the state include “association of the property with events that have made a significant contribution to history, connection of the property with persons significant in history, distinctive characteristics of a type, period, method of construction, or artisan, geographic importance of the property or possibility of important discoveries related to prehistory or history.”
Most run-of-the-mill older homes can’t pass such a high bar, but entire neighborhoods can become eligible through inclusion in a historic district. A locally designated historic district can be created by the city, allowing properties within the district to apply for state tax credits.
And that could be happening in Colorado Springs’ Westside.
In 2002, the Organization of Westside Neighbors launched an initiative to create an historic reservation overlay district. Residents of the North End neighborhood had approved such a district in 2000, but Westsiders were less enthusiastic, concerned about having to comply with dozens of new regulations.
Overlay zones can be restrictive, requiring homeowners to conform to detailed design standards and guidelines when making exterior changes or demolition of buildings within the overlay zone. Property owners within the zone must request a “report of acceptability” from the city Historic Preservation Board prior to obtaining a building permit.
OWN’s long, controversial and ultimately unsuccessful effort ended in 2012, but nevertheless accomplished some of its goals. Among other things, it provided a detailed examination of the Westside.
Defining the Westside as an area bounded by Interstate 25 and Monument Creek to the east, U.S. Highway 24 to the south, 31st Street to the west and Uintah Street to the north, OWN sponsored an intensive multi-year study that documented every building in the neighborhood.
The Westside, according to the study’s authors, “encompasses some 3,655 principal structures on 3,505 parcels. The development of the area began in 1859, with a large percentage of the structures built during a period of less than 20 years at the turn of the 20th century. Nearly all are dwellings, many of which were occupied by workers in the gold processing mills that served the gold mining boom of Cripple Creek, Colorado. The high concentration of homes of similar size and age, located on similar modest lots, with similar architectural styles, and mature landscaping, provides the Westside with many cohesive streetscapes and an appealing and desirable quality.”
A site-by-site inventory database was created, with information about each property such as degree of architectural contribution, date of construction and building characteristics. There are also photos of each property in the database, which can be accessed on OWN’s website at westsideneighbors.com. Finally, detailed design guidelines (originally intended to support the proposed preservation overlay district) were created. They’re useful resources for property owners, providing helpful information for rehabilitation, restoration and building projects.
The database, says Chuck Martin of the Historic Preservation Board, could likely be used to create a locally designated district, reviving OWN’s efforts.
Owners of contributing properties within the district would then be eligible to apply for state historic preservation tax credits.
But it would likely require the city to rewrite the existing 1988 historic preservation ordinance, exempting property owners in newly created districts from the punitive provisions of existing law.
“I would definitely support that,” said County Commissioner Sallie Clark, who with her husband Welling owns and operates Holden House, a Westside bed and breakfast inn. “When we were working on the overlay zone, people thought that it would be punitive and restrictive, when what we really wanted was to incentivize and reward preservation. We never wanted to be the preservation police.”
The application process isn’t particularly onerous, according to another HPB board member, Vic Appugliese, who owns and lives in a recently restored historic home on San Miguel Street.
“It looks kind of daunting when you start,” said Appugliese at a recent board meeting, “but once you get going with it, it’s fairly easy to navigate.”
At 9 a.m. on May 14, Appugliese, Martin, the city Historic Preservation Board, the Historic Preservation Alliance and the Old North End Neighborhood will host a free workshop on preservation tax credits at the fellowship hall of the First Lutheran Church at 1515 N. Cascade Ave., followed by a site visit to Appugliese’s home.
Joe Saldibar, who manages the state tax credit program, will explain qualifying projects and the requirements for completion, as well as other financial details. Appugliese will discuss renovations, materials, suppliers and best restoration practices at his home.
Intact pre-1965 neighborhoods such as Venetian Village, Bonnyville and Pleasant Valley might also qualify as historic districts — but any effort to add the designation would have to be led by district residents and neighborhood organizations. Grants to fund such efforts might be available through History Colorado. But those neighborhoods will come later.
“It probably makes sense to start with the Westside,” said Clark. “All the work has been done, there’s a lot of neighborhood support and it doesn’t burden property owners — just gives them an opportunity they don’t have now.”
(Editor’s note: John Hazlehurst is a member of Colorado Springs’ city Historic Preservation Board.)