Greenfield’s downtown area has received a boost in its revitalization potential with the recently-granted distinction of the Greenfield Commercial Historic District.
Comprised of the area from Fourth Street on the west to Second Street on the east and Mirabeau Street on the south to Lafayette Street on the north, the district consists of 50 “contributing buildings” and 12 “non-contributing buildings,” Grow Greater Greenfield (G3) Design Committee member Connie Clyburn said.
That means that 50 of the buildings in the area meet the criteria for the historic district, one of those being that they were built prior to 1950. The other 12 buildings were built after 1950.
The distinction will serve as a tool in the revitalization of the downtown area, said Phil Clyburn, one who has been involved in the process. While Phil Clyburn is chairman of Greenfield Village Council, this has not been a village endeavor, but rather one by local non-profit Grow Greater Greenfield (G3).
G3 started the process seeking Greenfield’s downtown to be a historic district more than two years ago with the G3 Design Committee. It’s members are Lynn Counter, Grace Ehlers, Doug Karnes, Steve Pearce, Wendy Royse, Tom Schluep, Susan Thompson and Connie Clyburn.
The group met monthly and walked the area, took photos, and dug into the research. They held community meetings. They identified the architectural styles — which in downtown Greenfield include Federal, late Victorian, Gothic Revival, and Italianate, the latter of which is the most prominent. The historic buildings date between the 1870s and 1950.
At the Greenfield Historical Society, members of the group combed through newspaper articles, records, old telephone books, photographs, and maps to try to learn the history of the buildings and identify all of the businesses that had ever been housed in the historic structures.
It took a while, and at one point they requested a review from the state to see if Greenfield’s downtown had a shot at being designated a historic district. Following a visit from members of the state’s historical society, the G3 committee was told Greenfield did have a shot, so it plodded forward in the process.
Part of that was acquiring a grant that would allow the non-profit group to pay for the professional drafting of a formal submission for the state. That’s where Samiran Chanchani, of HistoryWorks in Cincinnati, came in, Connie Clyburn said.
Once the formal submission was complete, it was sent to the state. Connie Clyburn said the state came back with some questions, which the group answered, and then in June the board of the Ohio History Connection, formerly the Ohio Historical Society, met to vote.
Given the current circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting was held virtually, and G3 members were a part of it. According to Connie Clyburn, it was a unanimous decision to grant the Greenfield Commercial Historic District its status.
From there, she said, the information was sent by the Ohio History Connection to the National Park Service, which will add the Greenfield Commercial Historic District to the National Register of Historic Places. Markers will be sent to the village and will placed in visible areas, Connie Clyburn said.
She said it is a common misconception that a building within a historic district is restricted by what can and cannot be done because of the historical designation. She said that isn’t the case, as it is typically the municipality that makes those rules. However, if a building owner within the district wishes to make changes to their property and be eligible for the tax credit — up to 45 percent total with state and federal credits — they will likely have to adhere to certain guidelines of Ohio’s preservation office.
That tax credits are something those behind the effort hope will be a draw to further development in Greenfield, Phil Clyburn said previously.
While the process is still being figured out, Phil Clyburn said anyone interested in learning about the available tax credits or having questions can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
G3 is working with Heritage Ohio — the state’s “official historic preservation and Main Street organization,” according to its website — to help with the process.
“It’s a huge step forward in the revitalization of our downtown,” Phil Clyburn said. “This is something we thought we could do, and we did. The committee, the community — we did it.”
Angela Shepherd is a correspondent for the village of Greenfield.