A proposed historic district application for a handful of buildings in Toano was well received by county residents at a public information hearing held by the Department of Historic Resources.
The proposal? Register 11 properties on the north side of Richmond Road in Toano as part of the Virginia Landmarks Register and a National Register of Historic Places.
Doing so would open up tax credits for property owners who want to improve their properties in a way that sticks to historic guidelines. The zone would be called the Toano Commercial Historic District.
“This is a neat, heartfelt effort to encourage the preservation of the good stuff that’s left here in town,” said Marc Wagner of the Department of Historic Resources.
Wagner spoke before about 25 people who attended the public meeting Friday in Toano, which is required as part of the process to consider the application for approval. The application will be considered by the State Review Board and the Board of Historic Resources Dec. 13.
Getting listed doesn’t restrict what an owner can do with a property as long as the owner isn’t using financial resources afforded by the district to make changes to the property that aren’t historically appropriate. If the owner is using only private funds, he or she can tear down a building, paint it whatever color and generally do what they want.
But getting listed could help spur Toano’s revitalization.
That’s why Toano native Jack Wray spearheaded an effort to submit the application. It’s part of an overall project to reclaim some of Toano’s lost glory as the bustling town that it was prior to the 1960s, when Route 60 was widened. The road widening destroyed stores and buildings that made up the town’s main street on the south side of Richmond Road.
“It was devastating to Toano,” Wray said. “To this day, it has not recovered.”
Wray also wants to build a mixed-use commercial development he calls Toano Station to breath some life into Toano across the street from the proposed district. The development would include apartments above commercial spaces, which could be home to breweries, coffee shops, small grocery stores and similar businesses.
The commercial historic district designation would make tax credits available for buildings in the district which Wray hopes will encourage owners to consider improvements in such a way that’s true to the Toano’s historical roots. The district would encompass a building owned by Wray that he wants to turn into a restaurant as part of the revitalization project.
Several county residents voiced support for the idea.
Among them was Toano resident Maureen Anderson, who said the district could help create the social center for the area’s inhabitants that’s currently lacking.
“I want a place where I encounter my friends and neighbors.”
To submit comments on the proposal, mail comments Director Julie Langan, Virginia Department of Historic Resources, 2801 Kensington Ave. Richmond Va., 23221.
For a copy of the proposal and/or a boundary map, contact Marc Wagner at 804-482-6099 or email@example.com.
Jack Jacobs, 757-298-6007, firstname.lastname@example.org, @jajacobs_