MORRISON – Morrison boasts a rich history and small-town charm.
Nowhere is that more noticeable than in its downtown business district.
The city is working to have the downtown district – Main Street from Orange Street to Madison Street – placed on the National Register of Historic Places. An informational meeting Tuesday will help the community understand the process.
The city recently was awarded a $14,000 grant through the U.S. Department of Interior for historic preservation.
It will use the grant to pay historic preservation consultant Darius Bryjka of In Alliance of Springfield to prepare its application to get on the register.
The Historic Preservation Commission will provide the required $3,000 match by volunteering its services to do 600 hours of research on as many as 85 buildings for the application.
Designation as a National Historic District would bring economic benefits to the city, said Tim Slavin, commission chairman.
“It’s all about economics,” he said.
Small Midwestern towns such as Morrison fear that their life blood – their downtown or Main Street districts – will dry up, either because business owners cannot sustain their operations or because big-box stores and commercial developments pop up on the perimeters, Slavin said. These towns can combat that, at least in part, he said, through historic preservation.
Recognition as a National Historic District would allow downtown business owners to access tax credits to improve and maintain their buildings, and it would allow the city to market itself to tourists.
“We’re trying to keep and enhance the vitality of our downtown,” Slavin said.
Designation as a National Historic District does not bring rules or restrictions, he added.
A business owner within the district could choose to tear down his building, paint it a loud color, or alter it in some other way, Slavin said. But a business owner who takes advantage of available tax credits would have moderate restrictions; he would incur a penalty if he alters any tax-incentive-funded improvements within a certain time period, he said.
“But generally, there is no legal or administrative prohibition,” he said. “There is no interference with private property rights.”
The city must have its application in to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency by June 2014, although the Historic Preservation Commission hopes to have it complete by the fall, Slavin said. Among the first steps in the process is to hold a series of public information sessions to help community members understand the application, he said.
Morrison, if it successfully obtains the designation, would join Dixon, Oregon and Fulton downtowns on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Morrison Historic Preservation Commission and its consultant will hold a public information session at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the community room at Odell Public Library, 307 S. Madison St.
Call 815-772-7657 for more information.