Restoring and renovating Beaufort's downtown historic district could not only improve appearances, but also provide a financial boost to the community, according to local preservationists.
City officials and residents participated in the hands-on Preservation Leadership Training workshop June 4-7 sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. About 30 preservationists from across the country swapped techniques, funding options and ideas to improve Beaufort and their own communities.
"The whole point of the whole exercise was to look at preservation through an economically driven model," said Erica Dickerson, member of the Beaufort Historic Review Board. "The first thing we were told was to throw sentiment out of the window. People aren't going to do it just because of sentiment."
Workshop participants developed visions for their assigned areas or buildings.
City Councilman Mike McFee said the ideas should appease both preservationists and redevelopment officials.
"We can make strides cooperatively and not be at odds with each other," he said. "We generally need to be able to look at things with a different mindset, not just one point of view."
One group proposed that the Von Harten building at 509 Carteret St. become either the Beaufort Bread Co., a project in the development stages, or a combination bakery, glass-blowing studio and microbrew retail space. Including the purchase price, the building could be rehabilitated for $670,000, the group estimated.
The two-store building at 702 Bladen St. could become a home or offices, said the two groups assigned to rethink its role in the neighborhood. Up to $70,000 in state historic preservation tax credits could offset costs, one group said.
Two groups worked on redevelopment plans for the 1600 block of Duke Street, and both decided the alley between Washington and Duke streets could be used to expand housing. Small freestanding homes or attached residences could be built on the large lots between the streets, and the alley could provide access.
Historic Beaufort Foundation executive director Julie Good said now comes the task of putting ideas into action.
"So for us, we need to be working with the property owners, with the stakeholders, to make these projects move forward," Good said.
Dickerson said the workshop will go a long way toward helping improve the city.
"Those of us who were in the classroom who live here now know people we can call and ask for help and advice on things," she said.