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Street Talk

Older Buildings Are All-Around Better Value

By Mickey Howley

Last Thursday I was in downtown Coffeeville talking to the Yalobusha Historical Society. As Main Street believes in economic development via historical preservation and the Yalobusha Historical Society believes in preserving our history, there is a considerable interest overlap between the two groups. Needless to say, they were a very friendly and interested audience.  

The YHS now has the old Presbyterian Church in downtown Coffeeville as their meeting place.  Church buildings are usually well built but single purpose structures. Like all structures, they need to be maintained and this church’s congregation was down to just a few individuals, not enough to maintain such a structure.  While the ideal situation is for a church to keep being a place of worship, some church buildings have been creatively re-used.  

I have seen churches converted into restaurants, apartments, and once in the countryside in France, a horse stable. With the old Presbyterian Church in Coffeeville, the YHS stepped in and now uses the building for meetings, events, and storage of its records. It is a great solution for saving a landmark historic structure.

 There are not enough historical non-profit associations around that can save all buildings, and that is why the Water Valley Main Street Association, with the support of the city and building owners on Main Street, is seeking National Register of Historic Places status for the historic commercial center of town. This status, along with the substantial federal and state tax credits that are tailor-made for commercial buildings, is one of the pieces of the incentive pie that make rehabilitation of a historic commercial building have more economic sense over building new.

The selling points to rehabilitations of older buildings are many: they often have a more central location being already in an established area. They come with a history (this may or may not be a burden).  They are usually made of robust materials — think bricks and masonry and heart pine versus metal siding, spray foam insulation, and metal joist guiders. Some designers and architects strongly suggest that older buildings are “greener” than new buildings, both in their energy use and impact via use of building materials. What materials and labor are used in rehabilitations is usually available more locally than materials for new constructions; this aids the local economy even more. But the best incentive is that rehabilitations cost less per square foot than new construction. That is even figuring in the value of the land and building to begin with. And properly rehabilitated buildings in historic districts retain more value than newer construction. That is the real bottom line.

Next Tuesday, Nov. 30 from 3 to 6, Sam Agnew, Mississippi Main Street’s northern district director will be at the Water Valley Main Street office at 207 N. Main St. Sam will be conducting a review of the WVMSA’s last year, help planning for next year and an overview of the committee process. If you already are a member of the Design, Economic Restructuring, Organization, or Promotion committees or would like to be, please come on by and be a part of where we are going in the new year. We are welcoming new members and all who are interested.

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