We have been driving around Manchester for almost a decade studying this great neighborhood, and have been confused by the seemingly sporadic renovation we have seen in certain areas, but not others. What we learned through our research is that development has occurred almost exclusively in areas that are federal historic districts and therefore qualify for historic tax credits for renovation. The areas that are not federally recognized as historic districts have seen essentially no investment or renovation work.
The map above shows the existing historic districts for Manchester shaded in pink/orange. The Manchester Industrial historic district and the Manchester Residential and Commercial historic district have acted as a catalyst for investment and preservation. As a result, owners have invested in old industrial buildings by converting them into renovated apartments, mixed use buildings along Hull Street are being put back in service, and old homes west of Hull Street have been restored. The presence of a federal historic district enables these qualifying properties within its boundaries to be eligible for tax credits to help defray the enormous cost of renovating these old buildings. Without tax credits, most of these beautiful old buildings and homes would simply have been demolished, or left to rot.
Unlike the aforementioned areas, the residential homes east of Hull in the area referred to as Blackwell, and the industrial properties southwest of Cowardin Ave in the area referred to as Swansboro, have seen no work. This is in part because these areas are not federally recognized historic districts, and do not qualify for tax credits as a result.
How do we spur renovation outside the existing historic districts so we don’t lose all our old buildings?
After seeing countless buildings in Manchester, Blackwell and Swansboro left to rot and eventually being torn down, we wanted to stop that devastating trend. Our old buildings have been gradually disappearing right in front of our eyes and slowly erasing the area’s history. As an investment in the area’s future and a sign of good faith for the neighborhood we love, we have decided to sponsor the work that is necessary to apply to expand the existing Manchester Residential and Commercial Historic District. If successful, structures in this newly expanded area could qualify for tax credits if deemed to be contributing. These credits could be used by building owners to help offset the cost of renovation for the newly covered properties should the owner choose to participate in the programs (participation is optional).
The hope is that by paying for the extensive surveying and application work to be done, and if ultimately approved by Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources and the National Park Service, this expanded historic district will benefit from new investment, renovation, and pride of ownership. This has been a significant undertaking as it has taken approximately a year so far to study the area, catalogue all the properties, and fill out the necessary application paperwork. And we still have more work to do. If approved, the expanded district would more than double in size, and would go into effect in August of 2018.
Stay tuned to the Dogtown Dish, as there will be public meetings to review the expanded district where you can hear about the process, provide comments, and gather information. We will keep you apprised as those details become available here on this site.