Local officials and consultants of the City of Garden City's preservation plan on Wednesday hosted a workshop on downtown preservation and tax credits, which indicated that preserving the downtown area could create a “buzz” to the area.

Phil Thomason, of Thomason & Associates of Denver, who is serving as one of the city’s consultants on updating the the local preservation plan, said he has been working with the city since early spring and now is at the point where drafts have been submitted to the city and the state office.

“We have heard comments back and are now working on finalizing those,” Thomason said Wednesday of the drafts. “The primary recommendations of the plan is to go ahead and move forward with listing downtown on the National Register For Historic Places.”

In 2011, a survey was done by another consulting group on a number of buildings in the downtown area in terms of contributing and non-contributing status, Thomason said. The survey concluded that despite all the alterations done to buildings, it’s still cohesive enough to have a national registered historical district downtown.

“Historic preservation is really one of the things that distinguishes your downtown from other downtowns,” Thomason said.

Being on the National Register for Historical Places provides Garden City “substantial” tax credits for rehabilitation projects, according to Thomason.

Options for funding preservation projects include tax credits and grants, said Kristen Johnston of the Kansas Historical Society preservation office.

The Kansas Historical Society offers the Heritage Trust Fund Grant, which initially was created in 1990 to provide assistance for the preservation of historic properties in Kansas. Through the grant, approximately $1 million is awarded annually through the competitive application process.

An applicant can receive between $5,000 and $9,000 through the grant. Nonprofit corporations must provide 50/50 dollar-to-dollar match, and other grant recipients must provide 20 percent of the cost of eligible project activities as match.

“This is a good chunk of change to get a project going… It’s highly competitive, but very worth it,” Johnston said, noting that applications are due in November, and recipients of the grants are typically awarded in February.

More information on the grant can be found at www.kshs.org/p/heritage-trust-fund/14617.

Johnston said tax credits are different from tax deductions and are taken off the income taxes you owe to the federal or state government.

Federal rehabilitation tax credits are equal up to 20 percent of qualified rehabilitation expenses associated with rehabilitation on any certified historic structure. Rehabilitation must be substantial, and the IRS requires that the expense of the project exceed $5,000.

Buildings using federal tax credits must be income-producing — retail, office space, rental, hotels, etc.

Projects that are approved for the federal tax credit automatically may receive the state tax credit, as well.

Kansas State Rehabilitation Tax Credits may be used for both income-producing and non-income-producing, and private residences do qualify for the credit.

Project expenses must exceed $5,000, and there is neither a cap on project expenses nor a limit to the number of times an individual can apply and take the credit.

The state tax credit is equal to 25 percent of qualified rehabilitation expenses.

More information on both the state and federal tax credits can be found on the Kansas Historical Society website at www.kshs.org.

In order to be eligible for the tax credits or grants, properties applying must be on the National Register for Historic places.

Phil Walker, author of "Downtown Planning for Smaller and Midsized Communities,” said during Wednesday’s workshop that it is important to preserve downtown areas in communities.

“It’s obviously where a lot of your town’s history first occurred,” he said.

One way to begin working on historical preservation, which also can create a market for retail and housing, is to focus on a one- or two-block area.

“Not that you give up on the rest of downtown, but I know it takes a lot of political courage because there are a lot of stakeholders that work on that one or two blocks,” Walker said. “But if you could get one or two of those blocks that are really vibrant, fully leased out... and it gets really buzzing, then the market will really start to pick up more naturally.”

In June, Thomason met with city officials to discuss a preservation plan. At that time, he said various areas in Garden City — including downtown — could be listed on the National Historic Registry. Areas include a large residential historic district between Walnut Street, Eighth Street, Kansas Avenue and Fourth Street; the Fankhauser subdivision located between Center Street, Pershing Avenue, Belmont Place and Harding Avenue; and Lustron houses in various locations, which include two on Hudson Street and one on 11th Street.

Contact Josh Harbour at jharbour@gctelegram.com