8:47am

Wed August 27, 2014
Regional Coverage

Lawmakers, preservationists call for historic building renovation credit to be saved

Preservationists and Syracuse-area economic development specialists are uniting to try and save a federal tax credit that’s helped renovation of historic buildings.

They made the push  from one of the grandest rooms in an historic building that turned 90 years old this month, the Hotel Syracuse.

Late summer sunshine streamed in from floor to ceiling windows, reflecting off the crystal chandeliers that hang everywhere in the long shuttered Persian Terrace at the Hotel Syracuse. If you didn’t look closely you wouldn’t see the crumbling ceilings and peeling wallpaper, hiding an antiquated infrastructure that’s going to cost a development group $57 million to renovate, with its historic features intact.

Lead developer Ed Riley says a big chunk of the job relies on a federal program that’s in danger of being eliminated - the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit.

"Without the influx of funds that will come in because of those tax credits, this would be a shell," Riley said. "It would eventually be renovated, not keeping it in its historic character or possibly torn down.”

Rep. Dan Maffei speaks to a group of people gathered at the Hotel Syracuse about his attempt to save a tax credit used to protect historic buildings.
Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO

This is one example of how this federal credit is driving historic renovation projects across the state, and one reason the Preservation League of New York State has put the tax program on it’s list of historic resources that are threatened.

"Our goal with this listing is to rally constituent, editorial and legislative report for this tax credit, at a time it is threatened with elimination in Congress,” said League President Jay DeLorenzo.

DeLorenzo says the federal historic tax credit tops the "Seven to Save" list this year.

"Generally, this is a list reserved for New York state’s most endangered and threatened properties," DeLorenzo said. "But this year we really felt an exception was warranted, due to the impact the federal rehabilitation tax credit has on so many of New York’s historic buildings, historic downtowns, and historic main streets.”

Centerstate CEO Executive Director Rob Simpson says the impact of this tax credit is woven through many historic rehab projects in Syracuse.

Ornate fixtures still stand out at the former Hotel Syracuse.
Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO

"Think about the Lofts on Willow, think about the Dey Brothers building, think about the Pike block," Simpson said. "Think about these iconic projects that have had a catalytic impact on our community and our psychology and our culture, on our economy. All of those have taken advantage of the tax credit."

DeLorenzo is urging lawmakers to get behind a law that would actually enhance those credits. The threat of elimination comes as the program is included in a proposal to rewrite the federal tax code.

Rep. Dan Maffei admits tax reform is needed, but notes this program has actually returned more money in taxes to Washington, than it’s cost.

"Throwing away the Historic Preservation Tax Credit is like throwing away the baby with the bath water," Maffei said. "We need to make sure what does work in Washington, what does work in our tax code, stays. And this is a perfect example.”

New York state is among the top five states taking advantage of the tax credit.

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