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Being called old suits them fine

A spot on the National Register of Historic Places can bring property tax breaks or income tax credits for owners.

By JON WILSON

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 3, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- Owners stand to get property tax breaks or income tax credits if four St. Petersburg neighborhoods win spots on the National Register of Historic Places.

North Shore, Round Lake, Historic Kenwood and the downtown area are in line for such designation.

People pursuing it say the listing improves property values, brings a neighborhood pride and prestige and helps in tourism marketing.

"It really is a wonderful tool to help neighborhoods revitalize," said Bob Jeffrey, the city's manager of urban design and historic preservation.

"The rules and regulations are relatively minor. They only kick in if you say, "I want to benefit from this.' For example, if I renovate, and want a tax credit, I have to follow the rules," Jeffrey said.

Ah yes, the tax credits.

Both commercial and residential property owners in Register-listed neighborhoods can get property tax breaks if they renovate substantially. The renovations will likely increasethe property's value -- but that increased value won't be taxed for 10 years.

You can call it an added-value tax exemption, said Rick Smith, the city's historic preservation planner.

Meanwhile, commercial property owners can renovate and get a 20 percent income tax credit. For example, a $100,000 renovation means a $20,000 credit.

The figure isn't subtracted from gross income. "The check you write (to the IRS) would be reduced," Smith said.

On the other hand, owners are not required to do anything if their neighborhoods are listed. If they want, they can tear down a property and be subject to no national preservation rules.

It is local landmarking that makes demolition more difficult, said Alicia Addeo, president of St. Petersburg Preservation Inc.

City and state grants are helping some neighborhoods pay for the necessary work to win the listing. Round Lake -- which is part of the Uptown Neighborhoods -- and Historic Kenwood are kicking in about one-third of the cost for their projects. North Shore, which is well along on its bid, used volunteers for its trench work.

St. Petersburg Preservation Inc. is sponsoring the downtown effort, and has worked on it for several years.

"Downtown is the most crucial since it contains commercial buildings in addition to some of the oldest structures in the city. The longer we wait, the more buildings might get torn down," Addeo said.

The target date to get listed is May 2002, when the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation holds its annual conference in St. Petersburg.

Currently, Roser Park is the only city pocket on the National Register, having been added in 1998.

A look at the neighborhoods:

DOWNTOWN -- The city's original core contains hotels, government buildings, churches and residences.

"The story here is that this (was a) burgeoning tourist town in Florida's early development history. St. Petersburg was an important part of that. Boarding houses, churches, hotels -- they all collectively created that," said architect Tim Clemmons, a St. Petersburg Preservation board member.

NORTH SHORE -- Also known as the Old Northeast, its 400-acre historic district would become the state's largest. About 91 percent of its buildings will contribute to the neighborhood's National Register application.

It was one of city's first neighborhoods, much of it developed by C. Perry Snell, one of the city's first big-time developers. North Shore contains early and middle 20th century architecture dating from the early 1900s to about 1945.

ROUND LAKE -- It was the first area established in what became known as Uptown.

It is another among the city's oldest neighborhoods and once was outside the city limits. The trolley car system ran along Seventh Avenue N, stopping at a gazebo that still exists on the lake's northern shore. Round Lake Park was established about 1911; the city bought it for $600.

HISTORIC KENWOOD -- It originally began to be developed about 1912 by Charles Hall, another major early developer.

The neighborhood is known for its "vernacular bungalows," characterized by their front porches and consistent setback. It has one of the greatest bungalow concentrations in Florida, Jeffrey said.

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