Posts tagged ‘tax credits’
Moving to Montgomery County from the Midwest, I’ve enjoyed seeing historic sites unique to the region. However, I’ve been surprised about the lack of knowledge and understanding about the importance of leveraging our historic resources.
A few years ago, I was in Atlanta to help restructure their planning functions and was shocked to discover they had no procedures to use historic properties as a redevelopment tool. But perhaps it is not that uncommon for primarily affluent areas to overlook funding opportunities. Places that have experienced disinvestment more regularly seek funding to make the economics work.
See the video below to tour an area of St. Louis where the downtown area was rediscovered – along with many neighborhoods using historic tax credits. Virtually every building in the video was vacant in 2000, yet seven years later, every one was occupied with about 4,500 condos and apartments and mixed uses.
Montgomery County does not have the historic commercial building stock of many former industrial cities, but it does have a lot of buildings over 50 years old that are representative of specific periods of growth in America. Montgomery County has designated more than 20 historic districts and 400 sites, all of which can take advantage of preservation tax credits.
The National Park Seminary is one of the best examples in the country that shows how a coalition of people can bring a national treasure back to life through dedication, coordination and tax credits. Take a walk through the development and see how restoring this unique complex spurred new development on the surrounding land.
The County is the second biggest user of state residential historic tax credits already. But we could do a lot more. In a county where the median house cost is about 2.5 times the national average, cost savings are important. Depending on the use of a property and its historic designation, property owners may be able to tap into federal, state and local historic tax credits to offset the renovation costs.
Now some people are afraid that historic designation means they cannot change their home. This is not true. Designation in the National Register of Historic Places does not limit the changes a property owner can make. Local designation is more restrictive, but generally in Montgomery County the rules are quite pliable.
It is important for the future of the County to provide the opportunity for people to upgrade their houses and to preserve neighborhoods. Imagine if homeowners in places like Connecticut Estates, McKenney Hills or Damascus could tap into a pool of tax credits offering a return on their renovation costs.
We are talking with the Long Branch community about the historic designation of the Flower Theater and Shopping Center on Flower Avenue. While much of the theater’s interior has been removed, tax credits could help renovate the building and attract new tenants.
If designated, the shopping plaza next door is also a candidate for rehabilitation tax credits. Historic designation of the shopping center and theater would allow for the buildings to be renovated with tax credits, while new construction could occur on the adjacent parking lot or on top and slightly behind the existing structures.
Tax credits for historic properties are manna from heaven and can mean the difference between making a project work or not doing it at all. It is a critical tool for investing in properties that might not otherwise be restored or reinvented for other uses. Communities across the country have embraced historic designation as an important economic development plan. In Montgomery County, we need to do a better job of educating people not to be afraid of historic designation. We should embrace these districts as part of a successful “green” strategy for upgrading our neighborhoods and creating jobs and services.
Remember, the greenest building is the one that already exists.