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Will the Historic Preservation Tax Credit Disappear?

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Developers are using the federal historical tax credit to build and rebuild neighborhoods from Boston to San Francisco (39,000 buildings generating at least $109B of new investment). But the credit that often makes these projects financially feasible is threatened with extinction. US Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), chair of the House Ways and Means committee, has proposed eliminating the credit as one of many offsets that would help fund sweeping changes in the tax code. He may not get his wish in FY ’15, but he’s building momentum for the future, says DC-based National Trust for Historic Preservation director of government relations Shaw Sprague (above). In the credit’s 30-year history, this is the first time that such a prominent lawmaker has supported the credit’s elimination, he says.


For a developer, the credit can lower the construction cost of a project by 20%, tipping the scale in the decision to demolish or save a building that gives a community character and contributes to the nation’s heritage. In Boston and other East Coast locales, such structures are everywhere: think Fanueil Hall, the Longfellow Bridge, the Liberty Hotel, and the former Filene’s building that's part of a $689M downtown mixed-use complex under construction. In Dallas, Centurion American Development is planning the $175M remake of the downtown Statler Hilton (above) and adjacent library. Last year, the Golden State Warriors' proposed $180M overhaul at the Embarcadero in San Francisco was the largest US preservation project.