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Higgins Fighting to Make Historic Tax Credits User Friendly
 Higgins Fighting to Make Historic Tax Credits User Friendly

Congressman Says Changes Would Fuel Economic Growth

Western New York is home to magnificent historic treasures but Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) says the antiquated interpretation of National Park Service regulations are creating barriers for developers looking to invest in and rehabilitate local landmarks.

“The purpose of Historic Tax Credits is to encourage redevelopment and reuse of some of our most extraordinary structures but the outdated process is instead creating hurdles for the individuals trying to do just that,” said Congressman Higgins, Co-Chair of the Revitalizing Older Cities Task Force.  “I look forward to working with the National Park Service to facilitate changes that alleviate the current obstacles and allow for the rebirth of these sites and the economic and job growth that comes with it.”

Many barriers exist to making restoration of large historic structures and complexes possible, most significantly being lack of access to capital.   Historic tax credits at both the state and federal level are essential to making any project happen.  The National Park Service is responsible for approving a project’s eligibility for use of historic tax credits. 

Roadblocks to accessing the tax credits occur when developers, seeking to maximize the use of credits amidst a difficult financing environment, are subjected to draconian requirements by NPS for projects taking place in phases.  Local business leaders frustrated by the process, the Historic Tax Credit Coalition, and the National Trust Community Investment Corporation, a division of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, have shared their exasperation over the existing policies with Congressman Higgins.

“To say that the process is cumbersome and prohibitive is an understatement,” said Buffalo Developer Rocco Termini, who has faced the challenges first hand with his project to rehabilitate the LaFayette Hotel.  “I thank Congressman Higgins for taking initiative to support ongoing efforts to preserve, protect, and restore Buffalo’s storied sites.”

Higgins says small changes could make a large impact on the ability to inject economic investment in larger local projects like the Statler, AM&A’s building, HH Richardson Complex, Buffalo Central Terminal, JN Adam Tuberculosis Sanitorium, and other historic structures. 

Below is a copy of Congressman Higgins’ letter to the National Park Service:

March 7, 2011

 

Ms. Stephanie Toothman, Ph.D.

Associate Director, Cultural Resources

U.S. Department of Interior, National Park Service

1849 C Street, N.W.

Washington, DC 20240

 

Dear Ms.Toothman:

I write you today regarding what is perhaps an unintended consequence of the current interpretation of National Park Service (NPS) regulations as it relates to use of the Historic Tax Credit. I am writing to learn more about this particular regulation and, if necessary, to work with the NPS to modify the existing regulation to allow for the further rehabilitation of historic projects.

Buffalo and Western New York, the region I represent, has an impressive architectural heritage.  The region boasts impeccable works by famed architects like Frank Lloyd Wright, H.H. Richardson, Louis Sullivan, Eero Saarinen, and many others.  Growing efforts are afoot to preserve and restore many landmarks – use of Historic Tax Credits will play a vital role in these projects.

It has come to my attention, however, that your agency’s interpretation of regulations could actually inhibit the ability of investors to fully utilize tax credits in larger restoration projects.  Specifically, pursuant to your agency’s current regulations, the owner of part of a historic building or complex of buildings may not be eligible for use of historic tax credits due to what could be deemed as draconian ownership requirements. 

I am aware of one project in Western New York that has already been stifled because of this interpretation, and my fear is that due to nuances in the New York State Historic Preservation Tax Credit, your current interpretation of these regulations could have a chilling effect on development, specifically on larger restoration projects that require significant private investment. Numerous projects of this nature exist in my District.  Given the challenges within the traditional lending environment, and particularly in weaker markets like Western New York, if projects are unable to heartily utilize Historic Tax Credits, they will be unable to proceed as planned. 

Knowing this, and its affect on development in my District, I would appreciate speaking with you, in person, at a time that is convenient for both our schedules.  Given the importance of this issue I would appreciate a timely response to this inquiry.  I look forward to working with you to help alleviate this problem so more development, more jobs and more of our cultural heritage can be preserved.  I look forward to starting a dialogue with the NPS over this important issue.

 

Sincerely,

 

BRIAN HIGGINS

Member of Congress

Downtown Businesses