The Planning and Zoning Commission approved Jefferson City’s first Historic Preservation Plan, a focused section of the city’s comprehensive plan, in November.
The plan is meant to provide a guide for historic preservation to policymakers, stakeholders and Jefferson City residents, and does not create or enforce any policies, City Planner Ahnna Nanoski said.
The following is a breakdown of some of the plan’s recommended actions relating to historic preservation.
The Historical Preservation Plan has five specific, overarching goals:
• Quality of place: Reinforce the role of Jefferson City’s historic core as central to the city’s identity and long-term economic development strategy — emphasize quality of place.
• Historic commercial and residential areas: Activate and revitalize Jefferson City’s historic commercial centers and residential neighborhoods as distinctive places for living and investing.
• Citywide connections: Connect the city’s historic core to its outlying suburban neighborhoods through transportation enhancements, parks, open space, trails, bikeways, programming, public facilities and other initiatives.
• City programs and procedures: Use the city’s historic preservation, neighborhood services and planning programs strategically to stimulate private investment in the revitalization of historic areas.
• Community engagement: Actively engage residents and visitors with information, interpretation and programming that reinforces community identity and tells the city’s stories.
The plan’s 76 recommended actions are organized into five strategy themes, containing descriptions of the area of focus, explanations of the recommendations, suggested timelines and lead partners who could be responsible for the action.
The five strategy themes make up chapters 4-8 of the plan.
Strengthening city’s preservation program
Within Jefferson City, there is a collection of stakeholders for historic preservation — the Historic Preservation Commission, which was designated as a Certified Local Government, and the nonprofit Historic City of Jefferson at the city level, as well as the State Historic Preservation Office, and others.
This section of strategies, chapter 4 of the plan, focuses on coordinating historic preservation tools and resources with revitalization and enhancement strategies.
Chapter 4 contains 27 strategies or actions. Within the theme, the strategies are further divided into categories including surveys of historic resources, local historic landmarks and monitoring historic resources.
A few of the recommendations in this section include:
• Continue to participate in the Certified Local Government program and compete for CLG grants.
• Improve administration of local historic districts.
• Consider designating the Capitol Avenue Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District as a local historic district.
• Uphold all powers and duties of the Historic Preservation Commission as the city’s advocate and voice for historic preservation.
Mary Schantz, president of the Historic Preservation Commission, said the commission started working on furthering its education on historic preservation before the final plan was complete.
“About halfway through, we decided as a commission to start focusing in on some of the areas that the commission could look at as prioritizing in our work agenda for the next couple of years,” Schantz said.
Since then, they have been taking some online courses in historic preservation and discussing what they learn during their monthly meetings. They’re also hoping to increase public education on the topic and encourage areas of town to look into becoming local historic districts.
Planning and development
Chapter 5 of the plan highlights other programs in the city — such as the Department of Planning and Protective Services — that may not focus on historic preservation but are important to consider in the process.
“The plan doesn’t just affect the Historic Preservation Commission,” Schantz said. “It definitely impacts Planning and Zoning and a lot of different divisions of the city government.”
The 27 strategies within planning and development focus on aligning historic preservation with Jefferson City’s planning programs and processes.
Included are strategies relating to the city’s Comprehensive Plan, building permit review, property maintenance and code enforcement, and zoning.
The recommendations in this section include:
• Adopt a zoning ordinance regulating and limiting the conversion of single-family homes in Old Town neighborhoods to multi-family rental properties.
• Revise the dangerous building regulations to include the city’s identification of and process for addressing demolition by neglect.
• Include building inspectors and building plan examiners in the development and implementation of revitalization strategies.
• Incorporate a rental inspection program into the city code.
While the plan is only providing recommendations and not creating or requiring policy changes, some expressed concern against recommendations made.
Brian Bernskoetter, government affairs director for the Jefferson City Area Board of Realtors, on behalf of the group, wrote a letter to the commission after the board had been given a chance to review the draft plan.
He wrote the board members were opposed to the idea of a rental inspection program, like the one suggested in this section of the plan, and suggested it be removed. It wasn’t.
During the meeting, commissioners asked specifically about the continued inclusion of the recommendation. Schantz said a program like that could fight demolitions by neglect.
“What we are seeing is that a lot of the rental properties are the ones that are falling into disrepair, and they’re not being repaired, and eventually they come before the Historic Preservation Commission and say, ‘We don’t have any choice, we have to tear this building down,’ but it spent 20 years getting to that point,” Schantz told the commission.
A rental inspection program, like any of the other recommended policy changes, still would need to go through all the proper channels, like the City Council, before becoming real policy. The plan simply recommends them.
Improving historic commercial centers
Chapter 6 of the plan focuses on enhancing the city’s distinctive historic commercial centers, such as Old Munichburg, downtown, Warwick Village or the Millbottom.
The Main Street approach, developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, makes up a section of this part of the plan. The program is made up of four points — organization, economic vitality, design and promotion — that work together to revitalize historic commercial areas.
The HPP breaks down nine historic commercial districts: downtown, Old Munichburg, High and Ash streets, High and Lafayette streets, West Main and Bolivar streets, West Main Street and Dix/Boonville Road, West McCarty and Bolivar streets, the Millbottom and Warwick Village.
The plan gives a brief history and specific recommendations for how to approach the revitalization and treatment of each area. (These recommendations are not part of the 76 overall suggested actions.)
After breaking down each of the districts, the plan gives nine overarching suggestions for improving the areas.
The recommendations include:
• Strengthen use of the Main Street approach in the revitalization of each historic commercial center.
• Focus on support and promotion of existing businesses.
• Establish a Neighborhood Conservation Overly District for downtown.
• Prepare commercial historic preservation design guidelines.
Strengthening historic neighborhoods
Following the chapter on commercial districts, chapter 7 switches to residential neighborhoods with historical significance.
Revitalizing historic neighborhoods can provide an improved “quality of place,” or physical characteristics of a space, like design and planning, and how that affects the use of the space and how people feel about it.
“The better quality of place, the more people want to be there and experience that space,” Nanoski said.
This chapter contains eight suggested strategies for revitalizing residential neighborhoods, preventing building loss and creating neighborhood involvement in historic preservation.
The recommendations include:
• Cultivate the establishment and effectiveness of local neighborhood associations as a vehicle for sparking engagement by local residents.
• Encourage the establishment of Neighborhood Conservation Overlay Districts or local historic district designation in historic neighborhoods throughout Old Town as a means of preserving and enhancing neighborhood character.
• Educate neighborhood associations and property owners in general about the importance of supporting code enforcement within historic neighborhoods, especially with respect to rental properties.
Nanoski said while the HPP is helpful for the city and other policy makers or influencers, it can also be used by Jefferson City residents who may live in historic areas.
“If you are a property owner, whether that’s for residential or commercial, you can see the steps the take to benefit your own personal property,” she said.
Schantz said the HPC is hoping to schedule public meetings in the West Main Street area, what she called “the Circles,” because the area is bordered by, among other streets, North Circle Drive, East Circle Drive and West Circle Drive. They hope to encourage residents in that neighborhood to establish a local historic district.
The city recently commissioned the West Main Street Historic Resources Survey from Kansas City-based Rosin Preservation, which found potential for homes in the area to be placed on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places.
“We want to encourage people to look down their street, and look at the history of their neighborhood, and say, ‘I think we’re interested,’” Schantz said.
Welcoming visitors and storytelling
The final strategy theme centers around heritage tourism and using it, and storytelling to enhance Jefferson City’s quality of place and economic development.
Tourism — specifically to historic landmarks like the Missouri State Penitentiary, which draws thousands of visitors a year for tours — is an important aspect of Jefferson City’s social, cultural and economic health, Nanoski said.
“A lot of people come to Jefferson City to experience state government, to learn about our history, the river — that’s all good for the economic growth of our community,” Nanoski said. “But also from a social or cultural perspective, keeping in mind what’s happened in the past and all of those significant architectural styles or movements that have happened, I think it’s important for us to have that identity.”
Preserving historic areas popular with visitors and increasing efforts for tourism are the main focus of this section of the plan, which has five strategies.
The recommendations include:
• Continue to use community events as a way to attract and engage visitors as well as residents.
• Expand the system of outdoor community interpretation using wayside exhibits and public art.
• Continue phased implementation of a citywide way-finding and signage system using the existing graphic identity.
Nanoski cited the city’s way-finding, or informational signage, as one example of something many people wouldn’t think of in a historic preservation plan.
“You think, ‘Oh, that’s just about transportation, that’s just about getting around,’” she said. “A historic preservation plan suggesting more way-finding signage actually helps people get to landmarks, promotes branding, and all of that. All those components are beneficial to strengthening a historic site.”
While a majority of the plan may focus on specific actions to preserve historic areas, some suggestions like the way-finding signage are meant to enhance them.
“When they say (the plan) is broad, it’s not just about rehabilitating a structure, but all of the other connected factors that support historic preservation,” Nanoksi said.
The full Historic Preservation Plan, including all 76 recommendations and further historical background about Jefferson City, can be found on the Historic Preservation Commission’s website.