NEWPORT NEWS—A group of local business owners has submitted an application to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR) to create a new Downtown Newport News Historic District. Historic Districts are designations of a group of buildings that together form a historically or architecturally significant area.
The designation is intended to preserve the character of the significant area, but not freeze it in time. It helps communities protect and share their history while benefiting the local economy by attracting visitors and buyers looking for unique historic homes and commercial properties.
Jonathan Provost, President of Pro/Vost Construction, which has an office on 23rd Street in what is known as the Walker-Wilkins-Bloxom Warehouse Historic District in Downtown Newport News, is spearheading the effort.
“Being that I’m actively purchasing properties that are of historic nature in downtown Newport News, I felt it was right to help create a downtown district to potentially entice other investors to come into the area to do historic rehabilitation projects,” said Provost. “I’m not the only one actively playing in this field.”
Does this mean The Yard District will go away or that the Walker-Wilkins-Bloxom Warehouse District will be renamed? Absolutely not. The creation of a new historic district is a way to rehabilitate old buildings in the area that have been sitting dormant for years and using the historic tax credit code to make the properties more interesting for investors. This could mean bringing in new apartments, retail spaces, restaurants, and more.
“Instead of taking something down and building something new, the city can utilize the buildings and potentially sell them to outside and/or local investors,” said Provost. “As long as they have a development agreement for a new generational use for the property.”
Think of it as the Ghent or Phoebus of Newport News. It’s a concept that some of the current local merchants of the downtown area are in favor of.
“For us, the main concept is that we see so much potential in downtown Newport News and would love to see the history of the area protected while making it advantageous for further development,” said Seth Caddell, co-owner, events coordinator, and historian for Coastal Fermentory. “It’s a way to honor the past, while also striving to bring in more life.”
As part of the application process, a public hearing will be held on Wednesday, February 8 starting at 6:30pm. The event will take place at Coastal Fermentory, which is located at 206 23rd St. in Newport News. The hearing is required as part of the nomination process for any historic district. All are invited to the public meeting to provide comments and ask questions.