0

Suwanee's historic Old Town added to national register

Pierceճ Corner, a 6,000-square-foot, two-story building that was built in 1910 is currently vacant, but has served as a general store, grocery store, cotton gin, dentist office, silent movie theater and antiques store. The building is located on Main Street in Suwanee. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

Pierceճ Corner, a 6,000-square-foot, two-story building that was built in 1910 is currently vacant, but has served as a general store, grocery store, cotton gin, dentist office, silent movie theater and antiques store. The building is located on Main Street in Suwanee. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

A process that began in Suwanee more than two years ago has received national distinction.

About 40 properties within a 67-acre area of the Old Town district, which is centered along Main Street, Stonecypher Road and Russell Street were added to the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places last month. The addition makes it possible for property owners to be eligible for federal and state tax incentives to improve or preserve historic value.

“This is undoubtedly a win for Suwanee,” city councilwoman Beth Hilscher said in a news release. “While I am personally looking forward to seeing the progress that will come about from renovations to Pierce’s Corner, the district designation is great for other eligible property owners who may be able to avail themselves of the tax incentives.”

In August, Suwanee received approval from the state Department of Natural Resources.

The state hurdle was a key step in a process that began in December, 2011 when Michael Deming, Jr. of the Deming Group, LLC agreed to a 50-year, lease-to-purchase transaction for Pierce’s Corner with Suwanee’s Downtown Development Authority for $258,640, financed at a 3.5 percent interest rate.

That came about eight years after it was purchased by the city for about $400,000. Deming also has the right to purchase the building within the first 22 years of the agreement.

Pierce’s Corner, a 6,000-square-foot, two-story building that was built in 1910 is currently vacant, but has served as a general store, grocery store, cotton gin, dentist office, silent movie theater and antiques store.

Deming has said the tax credits would be used to strengthen the building’s support and firm up bricks and mortar. Deming’s plans for Pierce’s Corner are to open a casual dining restaurant on the ground floor, and a business that’s an incubator for startup businesses on the second floor. There are also plans for the building to be certified in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

The process has had some opposition mainly from a group of property owners that labeled themselves “Main Street Neighbors North of Stonecypher,” who didn’t want to be included in the area.

Linda Fleming, who grew up in Suwanee and often spoke at City Council meetings on behalf of the Main Street Neighbors, said when the process began that there are no major advantages to an individual property owner to live in a National Historic Register other than to say they live there.

Another critic of the district was Maurice Cook, who said at City Council meeting last year that he was disappointed that the area didn’t include the Jackson Street cemetary, where several veterans are buried.