Downtown Niles

Historic districts add value

Published 12:46pm Friday, July 13, 2012

Downtown Development Authority’s Design Committee has been working on an amendment to the existing Niles Residential Historic Ordinance to include 56 commercial district buildings.

“The Niles DDA hopes to have this project completed by January 2013,” says Fredda Zeiter, design committee chairwoman. “Statistics show that one of the many benefits of enacting a Downtown Historic District Ordinance is that it stabilizes and increases property values.”

”Niles’ downtown district was listed as a National Registered District in 2008,” Zeiter said. “The current project began in the summer of 2011. The design committee hopes to join 75 other Michigan communities which have earned the designation Local Historic District.”

Since last summer, a report compiled building histories with photos then and now.

According to Nan Taylor, greater field representative of Michigan Historic Preservation Network and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, “Once an Historical District Ordinance is in place, property values increase a minimum of 10 to 20 percent, with some communities gaining greater increases.”

July 24 there will be a meeting for community leaders leading up to a late fall public hearing, so the community, as well as property and business owners, can learn more about this project and voice any concerns.

Taylor, the Design Committee and the Niles DDA board of directors will be at the meeting to answer questions and to explain additional benefits to enacting the Commercial Historic District amendment, such as eligibility for federal funds.

Jeanne Watson of the Design Committee said the local historic ordinance “puts teeth,” such as prohibiting aluminum siding. Any changes made should “respect the past” and maintain historical integrity, even if using modern materials.

For example, if the lot where Majerek’s burned was rebuilt, the structure would have to be comparable to those around it. Watson said the ordinance doesn’t control maintenance or painting, but architecture, such as altering arched windows.

Watson owns the pre-Civil War Daily Sun building. When the beauty salon moved out and loose bricks were noticed, her interest in historic preservation enabled her to retain an appropriate craftsman, since modern bricks are larger.

District boundaries were drawn to include the historic core while omitting parking lots, vacant land where buildings once stood and areas containing modern buildings surrounding the core.

To the district’s immediate north along and north of Sycamore Street are several city parking lots, vacant land north of Sycamore to the west of North Second Street and a much remodeled 1940s building north of Sycamore between North Fourth and Fifth.

East of Fifth Street are vacant land, a small modern strip shopping center and, south of Main, Chapin Mansion (Niles City Hall) — individually listed in the national register — which marks the east edge of the historic downtown area.

To the district’s immediate south are parking lots and vacant land where buildings once stood.

South of Cedar Street stands the remnant of old residential areas containing a church and houses along with some modern commercial development.

To the district’s immediate southwest and west stands the shopping center resulting from the 1970s urban renewal project, city parking lots and a small modern park area.

By using this website’s user-contribution features, including comments, photo galleries, or any other feature, you agree to abide by the terms of use. Please read this agreement in its entirety because it contains useful information that will help you better understand the rules and general "good manners" that are expected when contributing content to this website.

Editor's Picks