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City to formally submit historic application

Staff Photo: Keith Farner Suwanee First United Methodist Church, which is on Scales Road, was included in the geographic boundaries of a potential historic register district that the city of Suwanee will formally apply for this month. The church was chartered in 1876, and has been in its current location since 1910.

Staff Photo: Keith Farner Suwanee First United Methodist Church, which is on Scales Road, was included in the geographic boundaries of a potential historic register district that the city of Suwanee will formally apply for this month. The church was chartered in 1876, and has been in its current location since 1910.

SUWANEE -- The city of Suwanee is one step closer to obtaining historic register status for a portion of Old Town that's anchored by Pierce's Corner.

The city received a letter in June from state Department of Natural Resources that the section was elgibile for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. In the next month, the city expects to formally submit an application with the DNR, Economic Development Director Denise Brinson said last week.

Suwanee's Downtown Development Authority is pursuing national register district status in hopes that property owners can gain tax credits for renovations.

There have been three geographic outlines for the district. The unofficial boundaries that have been discussed are White Street to Russell Street, Main Street and Stonecypher Road. Among the historic buildings that would cover are Pierce's Corner, Everett Music Barn, Mayor Jimmy Burnette's house, which was built in the 1870s and the building that houses Revival Salon and buildings owned by Suwanee native John Titshaw.

The state included Suwanee First United Methodist Church, which is on Scales Road. The church was chartered in 1876, and has been in its current location since 1910.

In a letter written in June to Ken Kocher of Piedmont Preservation, a consultant hired by the city, Gretchen Brock, a DNR employee and National Register and Survey Program Manager referenced the proposed boundary.

Brock wrote to "clarify the proposed boundary by including all contiguous historic contributing resources along Main Street.

Alison Starnes, the city's Downtown and Business Development Manager, wrote a letter to Old Town property owners last month and stressed twice that the historic district does not hinder property owners.

"It is mostly an honorary designation that opens up properties in the district to be eligible for potential grants, tax breaks and other benefits," Starnes wrote. "Such benefits would be entirely voluntary, but may only be available to properties within an approved district."

A turning point in the historic register situation came in December when the DDA and the Deming Group, LLC, agreed to a 50-year lease-to-purchase transaction for $258,640 finance at a 3.5 percent interest rate.

Tax credits for Pierce's Corner have an estimated value of $300,000, DDA officials said.

Michael Deming Jr. said his plans for a renovated Pierce's Corner include a first floor casual dining restaurant, and a second-floor office for a business that would help start-up businesses.

"Their business model depends on historic tax credits," Brinson said.

While some residents have voiced their opposition to the historic pursuit, and said there are more pressing issues for the city to address, city and DDA officials said they will continue to move forward.

"There are not any drawbacks," Brinson said.

Added Starnes, "The DDA believes this would be in the best interest for property owners and the area as a whole to have such a district."