Harlem city officials will ask for residents' input on a proposed historic district in the city at two public hearings this week.
The city's Historic Preservation Commission, which is proposing a downtown historic district and aesthetic guidelines governing it, is holding the meetings at 7 p.m. Tuesday and 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Harlem Middle School auditorium.
Mayor Scott Dean said the meetings are for public comment on the proposed district, its rules and shape, and to help identify any concerns.
"This is about hearing the concerns of the citizens," Dean said. "But then it's about shaping the district, shaping the rule so that everybody wins and we protect the integrity of the city."
Ann Blalock, the commission chair, said the commission has worked to outline a historic district for nearly five 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 and held a public information meeting in November.
The next step is to make any changes deemed necessary after the public hearings and present the district for approval by the Harlem City Council.
"The council can vote it up or down or they can change the district," Blalock said, adding that if approved, the district would be state-recognized and would allow for more grant opportunities for the city and district residents.
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.
Dean said if approved, the historic district would preserve the city's historic treasures to include the Masonic Building and the old Culpepper Ford building, and will likely cause a rise in property values within the district.
"Those old historic things that make the community what it is, make people remember what it used to be and hopefully try and preserve so that my kids and future generations of the citizens of Harlem get to still hold that Mayberry feeling," Dean said.
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