New tax credit aimed at preserving state’s historic properties
by Eddie Burkhalter
eburkhalter@annistonstar.com
Aug 25, 2013 | 4923 views |  0 comments | 46 46 recommendations | email to a friend | print
David Schneider stands in front of restoring an old home he is in Anniston's Tyler Hill neighborhood. He is helping draft rules for legislation that will give state tax credit to people restoring historic homes and commercial buildings. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
David Schneider stands in front of restoring an old home he is in Anniston's Tyler Hill neighborhood. He is helping draft rules for legislation that will give state tax credit to people restoring historic homes and commercial buildings. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
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David Schneider is renovating his Victorian home in Anniston’s Tyler Hill neighborhood, and a new state law is meant to help those like him pay for such preservation efforts.

He began peeling away the home’s aluminum siding last year, Schneider said. He works on the home as time and money permit.

“Both of those are in extremely short supply these days,” Schneider said. “I might have accelerated my project if I had access to some tax credits.”

That’s just what the new state law does. Passed in May, the law allows for a 25 percent income tax credit to owners toward the cost of restoring historic homes and commercial properties.

To qualify, properties must be listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and renovations have to meet certain standards meant to ensure the integrity of the building is being preserved.

Schneider, of Schneider Historic Preservation in Anniston, was hired by the Alabama Historical Commision to help write regulations that will be used to review applications for the tax credit.

Alabama was one of few states in the southeast without such an incentive, Schneider said, and having the tax credit means more money to restore the state’s historic homes and buildings, many of which are in peril of being lost for good without quick action.

“So we’re very excited that we finally got one passed,” Schneider said. “It’s generated an enormous amount of interest.”

Stalled preservation projects across the state are becoming energized by the new tax credit, Schneider said.

“Right now, with the country coming out of the doldrums of the economic downturn the timing is really perfect,” Schneider said.

These kinds of tax credits can be a boost to the state’s economy, Schneider said, by generating large amounts of private investment money and tax revenue.

By joining the state’s new incentive with a similar federal program that offers a 20 percent tax credit, owners of historic commercial properties could get a 45 percent savings.

The legislation is different from the federal tax credit, however, in that owner-occupied homes qualify, Schneider said. The federal tax credit only applies to income-producing commercial historic properties.

But it may be large projects, like the $57 million renovation of the historic Pizitz Department Store building in Birmingham, and not those owner-occupied homes, that get the most benefit from the state tax credits early on, Schneider said.

That’s because there may not be enough money left after investors take advantage of the tax credits for large renovation projects, Schneider said.

The legislation gives as much as $5 million to any one single project, and sets aside $20 million in state money each year for the next three years to pay for the tax credits.

“The reality is that the $20 million is going to get eaten up pretty quickly,” Schneider said.

Dianna Michaels, director of The Spirit of Anniston, agrees with Schneider and said that while investors might soak up that money for large out-of-town projects first, it’s important to begin marketing Anniston’s historic properties to those investors now.

There may be opportunities to use the new tax credits to attract investors to some of Anniston’s smaller historic preservation projects next year, Michaels said, “but realistically, we realize some of those big investors might not come knocking on our door for another two or three years.”

Even so, the area stands to gain from this new tax credit, she said. Michaels pointed to Anniston’s Cheaha Brewing Company, located in a renovated 1890s freight warehouse, as an example of how preservation can bring people back to downtown Anniston.

This new tax credit can only help toward that goal, Michaels said.

“It’s amazing what you can do with an old building,” she said.

Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.
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