The Nebraska State Historical Society will offer an informational meeting at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 13 at the City Building, 220 N. Hastings Ave., concerning its plans to recognize a section of downtown Hastings between Lexington and Colorado avenues in the National Register of Historic Places.
Host David Calease, National Register coordinator, will explain the potential benefits to property owners within the proposed district boundaries. If unopposed, the nomination will advance through a hearing process before the Historic Preservation Review Board on Sept. 3. If approved, it then will be forwarded to the National Park Service for final consideration and/or approval.
The proposed historic district would be bounded on the south by the BNSF railroad tracks and on the north by Third Street.
Calease said the downtown Hastings area selected for recognition first was identified by the National State Historical Society survey coordinator for Adams County a few years back. Some recent work administered through the society’s offices on the Hastings Brewery Lofts project rekindled the conversation.
“There are already four or five buildings individually listed on the registry in downtown Hastings, but we wanted to expand on that and include a larger area as a whole to represent the commercial core of Hastings during the settlement of Hastings,” Calease said. “This commercial core still retains a large amount of its historical integrity, whereas in some other cities, the buildings have been altered in such a matter that they no longer represent the architectural styles and historical feel that downtown Hastings still retains.”
Contrary to public perception, an historic registry designation doesn’t impede the rights of property owners, but rather entitles them to apply for valuable tax incentives, provided they comply with historical preservation standards.
“If a building is listed, whether individually or as a contributing structure to the district, neither the state nor federal government has control over the properties,” Calease said. “These buildings will continue to be their buildings, and they can still pretty much do whatever they want when buying, selling, rehabbing, or painting them.
“I want to make folks aware that we are pursuing an historic district here and make them aware of the tax benefits, because the tax credit is a big one. I want to calm any fears they may have.”
It is uncommon, but not unprecedented, for property owners to oppose an historic district designation of their property, Calease said. In such instances, they are asked to submit their objections in writing to be considered. Barring at least 50 percent opposition from those within the selected district, the project will proceed as planned, without further action required by the city or property owners.
“In my experience, we haven’t had any organized opposition with substantial objections,” Calease said. “As long as people are aware of what the national register is or isn’t, I really don’t understand why anyone would object to it.
“One of the benefits is the acknowledgment that the city and citizens take great pride in their local history. The history of some of the major business in town is important. It’s one of those intangibles, a story that needs to be told. Downtown Hastings is a unique place. Not every town has an eligible historic district.”