Editor’s note: The following is an opinion column written by Christine O’Malley, preservation services coordinator of Historic Ithaca.
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Bus To Nature: Route 22
“Lyman says in his letter that the 20,000 square foot Masonic Temple has sat empty in part because of its designation as a historic site, which makes it difficult to convert into a space desirable to prospective tenants and businesses. This designation limits the owner’s ability to re-develop the site, and prevents replacement of the structure,’ Lyman says.”
— Ithaca Voice article, “Jason Fane says grant could bring new life to Ithaca’s historic Masonic Temple,” published June 18
Such an assertion is not truly accurate and largely ignores several important tax incentive programs that exist for historic buildings.
There is a joint federal and state historic tax credit program run by the National Park Service and the New York State Historic Preservation Office. The New York State Historic Preservation Office has managed a New York State Tax Credit Program for Income Producing Properties for many years. As its website states, Governor Cuomo “signed rehabilitation tax credit changes into law on March 28, 2013 that extend the program until December 31, 2019.”
There are currently four designated technical staff members in the NYS Historic Preservation Office who assist property owners with this program. In 2014 alone several hundred million dollars of certified work was approved by this program in New York State alone. More information can be found on their website: http://nysparks.com/shpo/tax-credit-programs/
There are numerous examples across the state where developers have made excellent use of this program to successfully redevelop historic buildings from the 1910 Cunningham Carriage Factory in Rochester to multiple sites in Buffalo. Many developers in Buffalo have made extensive use of this program as an economic engine for the city and numerous articles about this subject have been written.
One can be found here: http://www.buffalonews.com/city-region/development/renovation-projects-bring-back-character-of-buffalos-historic-buildings-20140419
Rocco Termini has been resourceful in using this program for a number of large-scale projects: http://www.buffalonews.com/business/real-estate/investors-and-buffalo-benefit-from-the-historic-tax-credit-program-20150509
Locally, Argos Inn made use of the historic tax credit program in their renovation project and received several hundred thousand dollars in tax credits.
There is also a local property tax abatement program within the city of Ithaca. Bryan McCracken, who is the Historic Preservation Planner for the city (274-6555), can provide you with more information about this program.
Historic designation of a building, therefore, is not a total roadblock to successful adaptive reuse and redevelopment. The sheer number of examples across New York State and, in fact, across the nation make this very clear.