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Historic district application authorized in Vicksburg

By Jef Rietsma

A historic district designation for much of the village’s center is being pursued by members of the Vicksburg Village Council.

The seven-member panel this month authorized drafting a letter of support for Vicksburg’s designation as a National Historic District.

Todd Walsh of the Michigan Historic Preservation Office said the National Register of Historic places is a federal list of the nation’s places worthy of preservation. “It’s a planning tool for state, local and federal governments; it’s a tool for promoting places and communities in our shared history; it’s a tool for economic and community development; and it’s a means of celebrating local and state history,” Walsh said. “The process for listing of a property on the National Register of Historic Places goes through a number of steps and this process can take anywhere from several months to a couple of years.”

The task involves a visual survey, followed by data collection and review by Walsh’s office. The next step takes the application before the Michigan Historic Preservation Review Board in January. Ultimately, Walsh said, the application goes to the National Parks Service.

The biggest benefit, he said, is the economic-development incentives, which include tax-credit programs. In addition, he said, it’s “an honorific program and it celebrates the history of the properties and the significance of the properties.”

Meanwhile, Cheri Szcodronski, a historical consultant with Firefly Preservation Consulting, said the village would likely qualify under a criterion that the area “demonstrates broad patterns of history,” for community planning and commerce, and another criterion relating to “architectural design or construction” for its broad range of building architecture.

She shared several examples of businesses and residences featuring unique but specific architecture styles. Council members said they had no idea the village contained such a diverse range of architecture.

In other action in December, council members agreed to establish support for a commercial rehabilitation district for properties at 101 and 103 E. Prairie St. Vicksburg is the only community in Kalamazoo County to exercise the option of establishing such a district, according to Village Manager Jim Mallery. The establishment of a commercial rehab district is being pursued by owner Paper City.

Also in December, the council voted unanimously to proceed with the improvement of Oswalt Park. The agreement with Frederick Construction comes at a cost of $225,000, with an additional contingency of $25,000 to cover overruns.

Mallery said money to support the undertaking is not from the village’s general fund. Instead, proceeds were donated by citizens and grants from the Vicksburg Foundation and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

He said the improvements are expected to be completed by early June. Mallery also noted Oswalt Electric is donating the cost of labor toward the project.

In a separate matter, Mallery said downtown traffic signals are expected to be installed by late January.

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