Milner firm in Beaufort this month to assess historic structures

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By Mindy Lucas

Members of an architectural firm contracted to update the City of Beaufort’s preservation manual and related documents will be in town later this month with plans to “walk every block” of the historic district and other areas.

“We’ll be on the ground there the week of the 26th,” said Brad Roeder of John Milner Architects, Inc., at the latest Historic District Review Board meeting, held online on April 14.

The firm was awarded the contract to update Beaufort’s preservation manual, supplemental manuals and list of contributing and non-contributing properties in December, and has been working on the project since.

The “Milner Manual,” as it sometimes called, was written in 1979 and was meant to provide the review board guidance after Beaufort earned National Historic Landmark District status.

A supplement was added in 1990 but it was never updated – something that many have said is long overdue given new technologies, materials and techniques that have been introduced in the building industry since then.

In addition, the firm will also review the list of contributing and non-contributing properties and plans to “walk every block” with survey sheets from 1997, when the survey was last fully updated, noting any “changes, demolitions and new construction,” Roeder said.

“From that we’ll make recommendations on whether anything should be added to the contributing structures list or downgraded to noncontributing or removed entirely if it’s not there,” he said. “And then we’ll incorporate all that of course into the design guidelines.”

Both the preservation manual and list of contributing and non-contributing properties have come up in numerous meetings and discussions over the last few years as downtown development has heated up, most notably in recent discussions around the demolition of several buildings in the downtown commercial district including one at 211 Charles Street.

A former A&P grocery store, the building was recently green-lighted for demolition by the Historic District Review Board (HDRB). Longtime Beaufort developer Dick Stewart has plans to build a three-story apartment complex on the corner lot.

However, historic preservationists say the more-than-50-year-old building should remain in tact. Others have taken issue with the mass and scale of the proposed replacement building.

While the building is not on the list of contributing properties, others have argued the list needs to be updated given that similar buildings and structures would quite possibly meet the criteria for inclusion on The National Register of Historic Places.

In addition to reviewing and updating the manual, the firm will present plans for the new guide in at least one additional city council meeting, said David Prichard, Director of the Department of Community & Economic Development for Beaufort. The firm has already made one presentation at city council’s April 13 work session.

In addition, the firm will look for inconsistencies with the guidelines the city currently uses, including a separate guide called Northwest Quadrant Design Principles created specifically for that neighborhood and the city’s other planning documents such as the Beaufort Code and Civic Master Plan.

Once completed, the materials will be added to the city’s website by the end of September and will be made searchable and easier to use, officials have said previously.

John Milner Architects is nationally recognized and has extensive experience in historic landmark planning, zoning and architecture, the city’s selection committee previously noted. Milner’s familiarity with the original manual was also a factor in awarding the firm the contract, members said.

The project will take an estimated four to six months to complete after this month’s walk around and assessment in Beaufort, Roeder said.