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Lockport seeks historic preservation funding from state

LOCKPORT – The Common Council voted Wednesday to seek further state funding to pay for a house-by-house look at most of the western half of the city to see which buildings could qualify for historic preservation.

The Council also received word from Robert J. Hagen, chairman of the city Historic Preservation Commission, that the High Street-Locust Street neighborhood is to be nominated for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places because of the character of many of the 19th century houses there. In all, 85 homes are included.

The Council’s vote on the grant application to the state Historic Preservation Office committed the city to providing $6,000 in matching funds toward a $30,000 project.

Kevin McDonough, the city’s housing specialist, said the city probably won’t have to pay the money until 2015, since it’s due nine months after the award is made, and the tab could be less if the city doesn’t receive all it asked for.

“It’s important for us to protect our heritage where we can,” Mayor Michael W. Tucker said. “For the longest time, we didn’t have anybody looking out for these properties.”

The “reconnaissance survey” area is to be roughly bounded by Glenwood Avenue and North Transit, West High, Stevens and Trowbridge streets, as well as a slice of Lowertown bounded by Grand, Clinton and Mill streets and the Erie Canal.

The potential High-Locust historic district was identified through a similar house-by-house exterior survey completed by Clinton Brown Co. Architecture of Buffalo in April 2011.

Hagen said the city received $21,400 from the state to pay the Clinton Brown firm to prepare the National Register nomination for the High-Locust area. The city paid $5,000. The Preservation League of New York State also kicked in $6,400.

Hagen said the owner of a historic home can receive a state tax credit for pre-approved home improvements costing more than $5,000, as long as at least 5 percent of the cost is incurred for exterior work.

The state offers a tax credit of 20 percent of the cost, and owners of eligible commercial property in a historic district can take a federal tax credit and receive another 20 percent back.

Hagen said if all goes well, the National Register approval could come this year, making High-Locust homeowners eligible for the credits for work done in 2014, if their houses are deemed historic.