The second of two informational meetings about a proposed historic district in Harlem has been postponed until after the new year.
The city's Historic Preservation Commission, which is proposing a downtown historic district, held its first meeting Nov. 20. The second was scheduled for Thursday, but the meeting was canceled because the CSRA Regional Development Center representative had scheduling conflicts.
The public, especially property owners in downtown Harlem, is invited to attend the meeting at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 8 at city hall.
"We tell them how the Historic Preservation Commission works, where (the proposed district) is and who is included and all that," said Ann Blalock, a commission chairwoman.
Blalock said the commission has been working to outline a historic district for more than four years. After creating the commission, its members prepared an inventory of all buildings more than 50 years old. The commission completed the next step of the state-mandated process to confirm the district lines in late September.
Blalock said the proposed district encompasses most of the city's downtown area. It will roughly stretch east and west from Paschal Street to North Louisville and East Boundary streets, and to South Bell and Blanchard streets to include two cemeteries and Mount Moriah Baptist Church. The Harlem Heights neighborhood also is included in the proposed district.
Public hearings are the next step in the process to establish a state-recognized historic district. Only one informational meeting and one public hearing are required.
The public hearings, which have not been scheduled, will be held at least 30 days after all property owners within the proposed district have been contacted.
Blalock said of the 16 people at the first meeting, seven were property owners within the district.
"We had two people who spoke very highly of it and said, 'Harlem looked better now than it ever had,'" Blalock said.
Some were on the fence about the district and others were against the district, saying the commission was trying to force the district onto the city.
Blalock said the city's Planning and Zoning Department recently approved a moratorium banning all new building permits within the proposed district.
"(It is) to keep somebody from, maybe a CVS, who wants to come in and tear down the Masonic Building and gives (the owner) enough money to make it worth it to him," Blalock said.
Legitimate permit needs of property owners will be addressed despite the moratorium, she said.
"There's nothing we could do about it, right there in the middle of the downtown historic district ... If we don't have that (moratorium) in place, it could happen to us," Blalock said.
After all meetings and public hearings are held to solicit public input on the proposed district and guidelines that would govern its aesthetics, the commission will make any necessary changes to the district and guidelines before they go before city council for approval.
"The thing they (residents) need to recognize is that we as a commission recommend this to the city," Blalock said. "The city council decides whether it is law or not."
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