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Sunday, February 5, 2023

Historic preservation door sunsets, another dawns

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North Carolina’s historic preservation tax credits, set to expire in 2014, were championed as catalysts for economic growth during an April 25 press conference outside the historic A. David Building on North Front Street.

Historic Wilmington Foundation Executive Director George Edwards said Wilmington has benefited from 210 residential and commercial projects, infusing an estimated $46 million value into the community since the 1998 creation of the state historic preservation tax credit.

“That is an impressive figure, and if we stop the tax credits you’re going to see … a slowing, a decline and frankly a loss of historic fabric in this state,” Edwards said.

Commercial and residential credit beneficiaries pointed to examples of the tax credits economic impact.

Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo and New Hanover County Commission Vice Chairwoman Beth Dawson also spoke in support of the economic and cultural benefits of historic preservation as did architect and developer Clark Hipp, who said the credit was instrumental in his renovation of the A. David Building.

“Since purchasing in 2006, we’ve invested well over $1 million for this property. … We’ve integrated modern office amenities into the historic bones of this building to provide spaces for 34 workers and 12 different small businesses,” Hipp said.

Gene Merritt, developer and historic preservationist, explained how tax credits are processed as a credit against revenue for an individual or business, not as a debit from the state treasury.

Merritt said it was likely some of the revenue reaped through use of the credits would disappear if the credits sunset.

Dale Nixon, who is restoring an 1871 home in the downtown historic district with his wife Pat, said the residential tax credit drew the couple to Wilmington years ago.

“The North Carolina historic tax credit has taken a little bit of the sting out of extremely high renovation costs and that’s important,” Nixon said.

Without extension, the credits will sunset on Dec. 31, 2014.

For commercial projects, state credits of 20 percent supplement existing federal credits also worth 20 percent.

No federal credit exists for residential projects, but the state currently awards a 30 percent credit for residential projects spending $25,000 or more.

During an April 23 press conference, Gov. Pat McCrory pledged to support a credit replacement.

The governor proposed a boost for the Main Street Solutions Fund, a matching grant program for rehabilitation projects in the state’s small towns, and creation of a Historic Rehabilitation Investment Program overseen by the N.C. State Historic Preservation Office, encouraging renovation of historic buildings to accommodate modern commercial use.

McCrory also said he would support legislation presented during the General Assembly’s short session in May.

As details in the governor’s plan and potential legislation are revealed, Edwards said he hopes a proposal to support residential projects will emerge.

“The discussion has never mentioned residential credits. … Almost every state tax [credit] program includes the crucial residential credit because there is no corresponding federal credit,” Edwards said.

Unless a replacement proposal offers no viable alternative to the existing credit program, Edwards said the historic preservation community should rally behind it.

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