As many of you know, the fifth annual Omaha Gives! – powered by our friends at the Omaha Community Foundation – is set for Wednesday, May 24. In conjunction with this wonderful event, we have some exciting news to share:

Restoration Exchange plans to use all monies raised during Omaha Gives! to create a special fund that will help locally landmark historic properties. According to the Douglas County Assessor’s Office, there are 86,153 properties that are 50 years or older in Douglas County. Of this number, only 107 properties are locally landmarked. If our math is correct, that’s less than 1%!

The ’50 years or more’ designation is one of several criteria used to determine if a property is eligible for local and national landmark status; the others are:

  • Integrity of the property
    Does it still look much the way it did in the past?
  • Significance of the property
    Is the property associated with events, activities or developments that were important in the past? With the lives of people who were important in the past? With its architectural history, landscape history or engineering achievements?

There are many properties that meet the local landmark criteria of age, integrity and significance, but no one has taken the initiative to get them listed. With our experienced team of researchers and architectural historians, we plan to change that. This dedicated fund will allow us to:

  • Proactively protect properties that are special to this community
  • Draw local and out-of-town visitors, which is great for the economy
  • Allow the next generation to see and learn from these properties

A local landmark designation and a National Register listing are two entirely separate processes. Some historic buildings have been designated under both programs, while some have received one form of designation or the other. The two forms of recognition for properties have different implications. Did you know:

  • Preservation laws have “teeth” – or enforcement power – only at the local level, while national designation is largely honorary.
  • National Register listings that we seek DO NOT impede property owners from making changes to their buildings or even demolishing them if no federal money is involved in the work.
  • Local landmark laws, such as those in Omaha’s Municipal Code, require historic property owners to obtain permits before performing exterior work on the site and approval from the city’s Landmarks Heritage Preservation Commission before making changes. A locally landmarked property would have to be delisted to be demolished, a long and expensive process.

Have we convinced you of the importance of this endeavor? We hope so! Please consider making a donation to Restoration Exchange during Omaha Gives! and helping establish this fund. Then become a history detective – look at the properties in your neighborhood and let us know which ones are important to you and why. Help us save places that matter!

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