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Historic district for Park Avenue area?

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Rochester has an impressive collection of houses, schools, small retail buildings, and other structures built in the late 1800's and early 1900's. And many of them have been preserved so well that entire neighborhoods look very much the way they did a century ago.

Neighborhoods like those may be eligible for designation as a state and national historic district – something that not only gives them a bit of prestige but can also help residents continue to preserve their home. Owner-occupants of many homes in the districts can apply for state tax credits to help offset the cost of certain rehabilitation work.

This spring, the Landmark Society of Western New York and neighborhood groups are holding meetings in the city's Park Avenue area to tell homeowners about the possibility of a historic district there. The goal: to find out whether there's support for the designation – and to raise money to finance the application.

The potential district would include much of the residential area south of Park and north of Monroe and I-490, roughly between Averill Avenue and Colby Street.

'"It's really one of the most obvious historic districts in the city," says the Landmark Society's Caitlin Meives, "because of the caliber of the architecture." A "fair number" of the houses were designed by architects, says Meives, and many of the houses have retained their architectural integrity.

Historic-district designation has helped residents in numerous areas of the Rochester area, including Scottsville, Brockport, Honeoye Falls, Pittsford Village, and the city's Maplewood, 19th Ward, and Browncroft neighborhoods.

Unlike the city's preservation districts, where exterior changes to all buildings are strictly regulated, historic-district designation doesn't impose restrictions on homeowners not using the tax credit.

Applying for the district designation takes six months to a year, says Meives, and involves extensive documentation, including compiling a description of every property – 1600 in the proposed Park Avenue area – and providing a history of the neighborhood's development. The Landmark Society is seeking donations to finance the application.

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