El Dorado Main Street members gathered Thursday evening for the annual dinner to celebrate their historic downtown district and learn more about districts and tax credit programs.

El Dorado Main Street members gathered Thursday evening for the annual dinner to celebrate their historic downtown district and learn more about districts and tax credit programs.

While guests enjoyed their dinner, keynote speaker Kristen Johnston, Kansas Historical Society Tax Credit coordinator, talked about some of their programs.

Johnston has worked for the historical society for 10 years and has been a reviewer for eight years.

“We really love our jobs,” she said. “We like working with the communities and we care about the historic buildings and historic preservation.”

Johnston served as the tax credit reviewer on El Dorado’s historic district project.

“It is great to see this go from an empty building to being alive and used,” she said of the Gish Building on South Main, which was recently restored and is where the dinner was held.

She told them people all around the country got to see that construction project because it was shared on a state Facebook page.

Johnston went on to talk more about her office.

Their focus is preserving historic resources, and she works mainly with buildings.

She said they also are there to answer questions for people.

“I want you guys to come away this evening knowing our office if available to help you,” she said.

She said she was going to talk about what it means to be a historic district and the next step.

“It means your downtown is recognized as historic and it is documented,” she said. “The district is a collection of buildings that have a shared history. It is important to document that history and maintain that history.”

To demonstrate that importance she gave the example of Greensburg where all of their historic buildings were wiped out in a matter of moments with the tornado. She said the didn’t have any record of what was there before.

Through the nomination process, the district is set and buildings in the district that are contributing are identified.

“Next comes incentives,” she said.

Those include grants and tax credits available for the owners of listed properties and contributing buildings.

There also is a Heritage Trust Fund Grant.

“We know historic buildings are expensive,” she said. “It’s not easy to fix things. Having access to some of these incentives can make all the difference.”

There also are tax credits available where building owners can get a percentage of a project back in tax credits.

“Our state tax credit is one of the best programs in the country,” she said, adding that it was for any listed building.

“We do actively try to learn more about physical preservation of buildings so we have a lot of resources on hand. We really are here for answering questions and helping as much as we can. We really are interested in keeping the history of Kansas.”

She also said they have an Ask a Preservation Program and she will be back in El Dorado with some co-workers on March 6 to meet with people about projects. This program is for newly listed communities.

Following a live auction including signed basketballs and a football, artwork, gift certificates and more, four Main Street partners were recognized for their contributions to Main Street. Among those recognized were C-Tech Industrial, CDH, HollyFrontier and the City of El Dorado. Commissioner Chase Locke was on hand to receive the city’s plaque.

“A lot of things Main Street does we could not do without these groups,” said Broderick Bean, Main Street Board president. “That’s not to say we don’t have other significant partners and without all of them we could not do what we do. Thank you to all the partners in 2013.”

Bean also recognized the 2013 board members, along with new 2014 members of Linda Baines, Amanda Grove and Tom Faudere.

“This past year these guys put in countless numbers of hours at events we had at main Street,” he said.

To conclude the evening, they announced the winners of the trivia questions and the silent auction.

Julie Clements can be reached at jclements@butlercountytimesgazette.com.