The Conway Historic District Commission has plans to expand the Robinson Historic District south toward College Avenue.
Conway received $8,700 from the 2013 Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. The grant includes $1,200 for travel and education for HDC staff and commissioners to attend quarterly training, and $7,500 to conduct a new survey to expand the district.
Bryan Patrick, coordinator of the HDC and director of planning and development for the City of Conway, said expanding the historic district will help preserve more structures, make Conway a nicer place to live and retain the value of older parts of town.
Patrick is attending the Old Conway Preservation Society meeting Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Faulkner County Library to discuss the future of the Historic District and Overlay District.
The meeting is free and open to the public. Memberships in the organization can be paid at the meeting for annual dues of $7.
“He’s going to be speaking about the difference between the Robinson District and the Overlay District, how they are reviewed for projects and the things homeowners need to know,” said Marianne Welch, president of the Old Conway Preservation Society.
The society will be discussing the potential to start implementing demolition by neglect ordinances and what it will take to expand the Robinson Historic District.
As stated by Historic District Commission Standards, demolition by neglect is the destruction of a building or structure through abandonment or lack of maintenance.
Homeowners are prohibited from demolishing structures in a historic district.
“I’m not sure if anybody in Conway has done it on purpose, but in other cities across the country, people have done it on purpose, where they basically just let a building rot, knowing they’re doing that, so they’ll be able to build a McDonald’s or whatever they want to build there,” Patrick said.
The rundown houses in the Robinson Historic District are mostly the result of negligent property owners, he said, mainly rental property.
“So many times rental properties become a problem because you have property owners who don’t care,” Patrick said. “They’re just trying to make as much money out of it as they can. They don’t keep it up.”
According to Section 14. Maintenance and Repair of the HDC Standards, the HDC has the right to issue letters to property owners detailing repairs needed to maintain the structure, and consequences if they fail to remedy the situation.
Patrick said so far, the HDC has chosen not to issue letters, but they do have the power to do so.
Most homes in the historic district were built in the 1930s with the oldest being built in 1875.
Conway residents have mixed feelings about living in a historic district, Patrick said. “There are people who want to preserve and there are those who don’t really care, who rather tear it down and build a brand-new, nice-shiny house,” he said.
Studies show preserving historic structures adds to the value of a neighborhood.
In order to expand the Robinson Historic District, the surveyor must find at least 51 percent of the structures in the area to be historic in nature. The HDC can then present the proposal to city council for approval.
“We want to add protection to these historic homes, especially if we’re dealing with demolition by neglect,” Patrick said.
(Staff writer Michelle Corbet can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 505-1215. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)