Places of Interest: Adsit Block and the Benefits of a National Historic District

Historic downtown Owatonna.

In case you haven’t noticed, here at the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota, we’ve been very busy these past few months with the launch of two of our new programs, Sites Worth Saving and Places of Interest. These programs were developed to provide more direct, hands-on-assistance to preservation projects across the state. Stay tuned to our blog, Facebook page, and website, as we announce our Sites Worth Saving and Places of Interest sites across the state.  


Our first featured Place of Interest is the Adsit Block in downtown Owatonna. On the map, Owatonna is a town like many other towns in Southern Minnesota. But, all it takes is a visit to realize this town is special. There’s a reason Owatonna is commonly referred to as the “Jewel on the Prairie.” The city boasts an exceptionally impressive collection of buildings from globally acclaimed architects, and is only located an hour’s drive from the Twin Cities! The city boasts a large collection of Prairie school structures, from the National Farmers’ Bank which is Louis Sullivan’s first “jewel boxes banks”, to the John H. Adair house built by the distinguished Prairie School architects Purcell & Elmslie, and more recently, the modernist Winton Guesthouse originally build on Lake Minnetonka by Frank Gehry in 1987 and moved to Owatonna in 2011. As a result, Owatonna is not only a destination city for architecture buffs across the state, but also nationwide.

Adsit Block, proposed to be redeveloped in the Showcase Development.

Understandably then, the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota has designated, as a Places of Interest site, the proposed Showcase Centre Development in Downtown Owatonna. This proposed development would revitalize a crucial block in the historic downtown by renovating the historic, yet underutilized 1895 Adsit Block and adding infill development on the site of the old State. The developer, a longtime resident of Owatonna, proposes adding a performance venue, boutique shops, art gallery, and a restaurant or a “30s something bistro or bar” within the development. This proposal would be a saving grace for downtown Owatonna by bringing vitality to downtown by encouraging both resident and tourist dollars to flow into downtown Owatonna.


Old supper club inside the Adsit Block.

After years of decline due to the growth of suburban development, historic downtown Main Streets in Minnesota and across the county are looking for innovative ways to revitalize their downtowns and attract residents and tourists alike, and their historic resources could be the key. In Minnesota, a National Register Historic District isn’t only an impressive title; it’s also an economic tool for development. Despite its nationally recognized collection of architecture and impressively intact downtown, Owatonna does not currently have a historic district, partly due to misconceptions about the National Register of Historic Places program. Property owners are often hesitant to list their property on the Registry due to misinformed information about the rules and regulations that they need to follow. In reality, if a building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building owner is still free to do whatever they he or she wishes to it. But, with the passage of the Minnesota Historic Structure Rehabilitation Tax Credit in 2010, having a structure listed as a contributing member of a Downtown Historic District, or a property listed on the National Register of Historic Places, allows for a combined federal and state tax credit of up to 40%. The developer of the Showcase Centre has said that he needs these tax credits to make this project feasible; without them, the project will not go forward, and Owatonna will have missed out on a huge opportunity. The proposed Showcase Centre development in Owatonna is an example of how the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota is helping communities across the state to have the potential to revitalize their historic downtowns, by using the state and federal historic tax credits as a powerful incentive for developers to invest in their historic resources.


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