Integrity of Rome’s downtown historic district needs to be dealt with in a consistent manner | Business

Historic preservation in Rome has generated a lot of interest and controversy over the years. The Historic Preservation Commission has been the focus of considerable criticism from people who argue the panel has too much power over someone else’s property and what they can and can’t do with that property.

“It’s not some external factor that’s causing the problem, it’s us,” said Rome City Commissioner Craig McDaniel. He points to the new library, the Forum, the joint law enforcement center and the Third Avenue parking deck along the river. “The comment I’ve heard, and I share this, government is allowed to have one set of rules, but private owners have to adhere to another set of rules.”

McDaniel said the city’s new Business Development Committee has asked HPC Chairman Harry Wise to look into what the panel can do to maintain some level of consistency moving forward.

It’s hard not to make note of the fact that Rome’s historic downtown has been a major economic driver for the city since making a nearly 100 percent recovery from urban sprawl and the flight from downtown districts to suburban strip and mall shopping centers that started a half-century ago.

Kristi Kent, director of communications and marketing for the Greater Rome Convention and Visitors Bureau, last month went to the Georgia Welcome Center on I-75 near Fort Oglethorpe armed with a series of phrases to see which ones have greater impact on potential visitors than others. The travelers who participated in her survey reacted in largest numbers to Rome having the largest intact Victorian-era downtown district in the state.

McDaniel also said the Business Development panel has asked the HPC to look at the boundaries of the districts with emphasis on fringe areas such as the areas that have been redeveloped, almost exclusively by government, along the Oostanaula River. “I want the integrity of what we have downtown — the historical value of what we have downtown — to continue, but these outlying, these fringe areas where we give the appearance of not being consistent, we have to deal with those (better).”

“Maintaining the feel for what brought us here, the architecture is all part of what attracts people to an area,” said David Prusakowski, an insurance agent with offices on Third Avenue and a member of the Downtown…

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