Vermillion plans to revitalize downtown by… Mayor Roger Kozak speaks to citizens who gathered on Vermillion's Main Street to celebrate the placement of the city's downtown historic district on the National Register of Historic Places. After a ribbon-cutting ceremony, the crowd enjoyed free lemonade and ice cream. by David Lias Vermillion is counting on the past to promote the future of its downtown business sector.
Townsfolk gathered on Main Street Monday afternoon to celebrate the placement of the Downtown Vermillion Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of Interior.
The national listing of the Downtown Vermillion Historic District is the result of almost three years of effort by community leaders and the State Historic Preservation Office in Pierre.
"The city of Vermillion has a long history of support for historic preservation," Mayor Roger Kozak said. "I think the flavor of the past is evident in the many projects that have been initiated and carried through to completion."
Efforts to protect and preserve the past, he added, are indicators of how well local citizens value the efforts of "those who have come before us," he said.
The Downtown Historic Vermillion District includes both sides of Main Street from Market to Dakota streets, and some properties on Center, Court, Elm and Church streets.
There are approximately 50 buildings in the district.
Restoration and preservation are no guarantees that increased economic development and a revitalized Main Street will follow, Kozak said.
"However, I'm confident that this major first step will propel us forward and position us to be prepared for a brighter future," he said.
It's important, Kozak said, for the city to follow through with appropriate building code and zoning regulations. "We also want to introduce, when possible, tax increment financing programs to enhance the efforts of others."
Direct loans and grants, and access to income tax credits , he said, will help business and building owners in the historic restoration of Vermillion's downtown.
The National Register designation means property owners
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can apply for low-interest loans through the Preserve South Dakota Foundation, qualify for an eight-year property-tax moratorium and receive a federal tax credit for renovations.
"I love to come down to Vermillion; it reminds me of the hometown I grew up in northeastern Ohio," said Lynda Schwan of the South Dakota Historic Preservation Office. "It's been a great pleasure for me to serve the community."
The historic designation given to downtown Vermillion, she said, came about largely through a three-year effort by community leaders, USD students and the state historic preservation office in Pierre.
"The listed properties contribute to the understanding and cultural foundation of the nation," she said. "Each building that is considered a contributing building within this area is going to be eligible for special benefits, and we're looking forward to new projects in the continued restoration of downtown."
"One of the things that brought me and my family to Vermillion is the fact that we have so many wonderful old buildings in downtown," said City Manager James Patrick. "This is a day we can truly take pride in, because the downtown is the heart and soul of a community."
It is now up to Vermillion citizens to build on this latest success by implementing a historic preservation plan, and developing and implementing plans to make downtown more attractive to visitors.
"I truly believe that I work with the best volunteer organization in the county, and probably in the state, not just because of the things we get involved with, but more importantly, because of the talents and dedication shown by the people," said Kevin Jacobson, chairman of the Clay County Historic Preservation Commission.
Citizens who have played key roles in the historic designation include Dr. Betty Smith, who served as chair of the county historic preservation commission and recruited USD student volunteers to conduct downtown area surveys.
Dan Christopherson, a downtown business owner, shared project manager duties with Smith during the survey process, and took the lead in conducting additional building history research.
"There is some permanence in these buildings, and I think that most of you see the importance of the quality of the craftsmanship and the design of these buildings," Jacobson said.
Vermillion citizens who constructed the brick and mortar structures that line Main Street nearly a century ago "built them to last generations," he said.