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Downtown specialist helping property owners

BY DAVID ZOELLER dzoeller@paducahsun.com

Melinda Winchester's background is already paying "historic" dividends in her new role as manager of Paducah Main Street and as a downtown development specialist.

With her degree in historical preservation and 11 years experience with a private consulting firm with that speciality, she is helping qualified property owners save money through available state and federal tax credits.

"They (historical tax credits) have been around since the 1980s," Winchester said. "But a lot of small property owners haven't been taking advantage of them in Paducah."

To qualify, the property must be listed on the National Register of Historic Places or be in a historic district. Winchester's designated areas of emphasis are downtown and Lower Town.

"It's a great economic tool for Main Street to be able to offer to existing or new property owners," she said.

She recently helped Jorge Martinez and Paul Gourieux, the owners of the planned Tribeca Inn downtown, apply for approximately $400,000 worth of federal and state credits. Tax credit applications for two other commercial projects are pending, and another residential project application in Lower Town is in the works.

"They (historic structures) are part of our heritage and need to be preserved," Winchester said.

The National Register criteria for evaluation examine, among other things, the property's age, integrity and significance. The significance could be its architectural history, landscape history or engineering achievements.

"Every project is unique," Winchester said.

The guidelines for state and federal historical tax credits are the same. Commercial properties must be income-producing. When a project is completed, the state writes a check for the tax credit to the owner. Federal tax credits are applied to the property owner's tax liability, Winchester said.

Winchester was involved in the preservation process even before she took the city job March 6. She moved to Paducah in 2010, and worked with the Wallace Park neighborhood while still working for the consulting firm.

"I wanted to connect to the community," she said.

During her time with the private firm she worked on all types of historical preservation projects.

"It's an experience thing," she said of being able to help property owners navigate the tax-credit process. "And the rest is a lot of paperwork.

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