The biggest preservation news this week comes from the Legislature, where lawmakers are debating renewal of the Historic Preservation Tax Credit, which provides a tax credit for rehabilitation of National Register-listed properties amounting to 25% of the cost of renovation. As you may recall, this popular tax credit, which has been used to rehab both private residences in historic neighborhoods–from Natchez to Tupelo, from Biloxi to Jackson and Oxford–and major commercial buildings like Jackson’s King Edward Hotel and Starkville’s Mill project, lapsed last year after it hit the cap imposed by the Legislature several years ago. Both the Senate and the House have passed bills to raise the cap, and last I heard, the two bills were in conference where they will have to be reconciled into one that can pass both houses.
Looking at the two bills, the Mississippi Business Journal‘s article “Historic preservation tax credits advance but amounts still uncertain” noted that “competition for Mississippi’s historic preservation tax credits could become more intense in the years ahead as owners of historic properties vie for a limited supply of credits.” I’m not an accountant, thankfully for everyone, so I don’t quite understand all the ins and outs, but apparently there are two points of discussion that might change the ways the tax credits are used in the future:
- One possibility is that the Legislature would impose an annual cap ($8 million/year is the number mentioned in the article), which would mean that only one large project could file per year ($8 million would mean a project of about $32 million, which is about a third of the stated cost of the King Edward Hotel project back in 2009). That low of an annual cap might force a frenzy of competition each year for the credits and would introduce a high level of uncertainty for investors, even in smaller projects since they would be left to try to pick up any scraps left over.
- According to both the MBJ and another article in the Daily Journal (“Legislation to renew historic tax credits mulled“), the Senate bill, authored by finance committee chair Joey Fillingane, would eliminate “single-family residential homes” from eligibility, which would be a huge blow to the revitalization of historic neighborhoods around the state. From where I’m sitting, this provision looks like giving big-money developers a leg up while telling regular historic homeowners to pound sand. Is that really a good way to encourage Mississippians to preserve their historic places?
The MBJ notes that many projects are stalled around the state awaiting the Legislature’s decision:
Projects across Mississippi are awaiting renewal of the preservation credits, including restoration and conversation of Jackson’s Central Business District properties such as the unused Eastland Federal Courthouse, the Regions Building and Walthall Hotel.
In Gulfport, developers want the credits to help cover costs of converting the long-closed Department of Veterans Affairs hospital into a Holiday Inn Resort surrounded by a community of apartments, shops, restaurants and offices.
In Greenville, businessman Bill Boykin is counting on the credits to help pay for restoring the circa 1940s Sears building, a three-story structure that anchors downtown and stayed vacant for 20 years until Boykin bought it from the city three years ago. In Water Valley, the city’s Mississippi Main Street chapter hopes the credits will be available to entice investors to continue a series of a half dozen downtown restorations.
In other news, Meridian’s iconic Threefoot Building is moving closer to its hoped-for resurrection as a hotel. The Meridian Star reports:
The long-awaited redevelopment of the Threefoot Building in Meridian gained steam when developer John Tampa took possession of the historic building in early January.
Tampa, president of Ascent Hospitality Management LLC, said it would probably be this fall before work starts on the 16-story hotel, because the Threefoot is a historical structure and state and federal guidelines must be met.
Ascent Hospitality is committed to spending at least $14 million to renovate the building, according to Tampa.
The hotel will have at least 120 rooms when completed. The facility will also have a restaurant that will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as a Starbucks coffee shop.
The City of Jackson is accepting nominations for its annual historic preservation awards:
The City of Jackson Historic Preservation Commission will present awards in May to outstanding Historic Preservation Projects that have been substantially completed between January 2013 and January 2016. The categories of the competition include: (1) Restoration/Rehabilitation (residential, commercial and institutional); (2) Historic Landscape/Archaeology; (3) New Construction/New Streetscapes; and (4) Preservation Education/Media. Projects are required to substantially meet the Secretary of the Interior’s criteria, and in the case of Education/Media should include promotion of historic place awareness, contribution to heritage education, promotion of heritage tourism, or preservation of a significant tangible resource of Jackson history.
Eligible applicants are architects, project managers or owners. Applications will be accepted until April 7, 2016 at 5:00 p.m. Interested parties may call Jaynae Young, Acting Senior Planner of Historic Preservation with the City of Jackson at 601-960-1900, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to receive entry forms.
In preparation for the Columbus Spring Pilgrimage, which starts today, read Rufus Ward’s latest “A Walk Through History” which gives a walking tour through the fabulous South Side Historic District. You can also read my reviews of the pilgrimage from 2009, way back when this blog was just a baby:
And last, here’s a Facebook post about a modernist house in Tupelo I had never seen before. It was the home of Rex and Nellie Reed, who also owned the Rex Plaza that Tom Barnes wrote about last year. According to the Oren Dunn Museum’s post, the house was designed by Robert Law Weed of Miami, FL, and was featured as one of the Homes of Tomorrow Exhibition at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. From what I gather, the city acquired the house after the Reeds’ deaths and tore it down.