City considers historic grant applications

Birmingham City Commissioners unanimously approved applying for an $8,000 grant to conduct a reconnaissance level survey of the city's Little San Francisco neighborhood at their meeting on Monday, October 19, but requested more information before approving a grant application to update historic design guidelines. Birmingham Planner Nicholas Dupuis explained that the grant applications, made to the Michigan Historic Preservation Office, are to “inspire decades of responsible, effective, and defensible historic preservation efforts that aim to preserve a unique character and disposition that is important to the city, its residents, and the environment.” Commissioners approved the application for a fiscal year 2021 certified local government grant program for $8,000, which would not require any reimbursement or matching funds by the city, for the city's Little San Francisco neighborhood, located east of N. Old Woodward, south of Oak, north of Oakland, and west of Woodward, adjacent to the retail area. According to the application, “At present, the houses in the area are generally preserved from their 1910’s and 1920’s vintage, or have been rebuilt within the last 20 years. Based on the city’s current records, there are 38 homes in the neighborhood that are over 100 years old with 19 more aging into that category by 2024. This makes up a significant portion of the roughly 80 homes present in the neighborhood today.” The application seeks a reconnaissance level survey of the neighborhood in order to to inventory, research, prepare reports and provide designation recommendations. A second grant application request, for $15,000 to develop updated historic design guidelines with an emphasis on new and emerging materials, was returned for Dupuis to get more information and return to the commission. In particular, commissioners wanted to know if a historic district is determined, could a property owner opt out, or if restrictions would be imposed on them. “I've done dozen of projects involving historic preservations. I know very well the concerns of residents and homeowners of historic designations that could restrict what they could do with their property,” said commissioner Mark Nickita. “I personally feel they should be well-informed of what we're considering, both in terms of the value and importance to the city but also what that means to them. It's putting the cart before the horse. Clarity on that is very important before we move forward.”

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