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Higgins Announces Investment in Western New York Made Possible Through Historic Tax Credits Now Tops $1.2 Billion

Aug 13, 2019
Press Release
Following Years of Focus in Downtown Buffalo, New Investment is Reaching Into Local Neighborhoods

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Congressman Brian Higgins’ district ranks among the top communities in the nation involved in successfully utilizing Historic Tax Credits to reimagine old buildings and revitalize distressed areas.  Higgins announced that in his district alone, Historic Tax Credits have climbed to $1.27 billion in approved investment since 1999.  Higgins also pointed out that after years of focus primarily in downtown Buffalo, historic rehab investments are now extending beyond the urban center and into local neighborhoods.

Congressman Higgins said, “This community has eagerly embraced the opportunity to reinvent itself by reimagining the incredible historic buildings that our uniquely ours.  We’ve seen great progress, thanks to the use of Historic Tax Credits, within the downtown core.  But it is now equally exciting to see this begin to make the old new again in Western New York neighborhoods.  The federal Historic Tax Credit more than pays for itself, supporting jobs and helping communities to become economically self-sufficient.”

Congressman Higgins was joined by Merrill Hoopengardner, Chair of the Historic Tax Credit Coalition and the President of the National Trust Community Investment Corporation, as well as Preserve Buffalo Niagara Executive Director Jessie Fisher, to detail the impact Historic Tax Credits are having in Western New York. 

Merrill Hoopengardner, Chair of the Historic Tax Credit Coalition and the President of the National Trust Community Investment Corporation said, “Many projects in Buffalo supported by the HTC showcase the incredibly impactful community development outcomes that are possible using historic preservation as a vehicle for change. The Northland Workforce Training Center, a recent NTCIC investment, recognized the need for quality training and employment opportunities in the manufacturing sector, took an aging historic space, and is transforming it into an asset that will change hundreds of lives a year. Now more than ever, we need to recognize and strengthen the capabilities of the incentive so we can continue to see these historical places reactivated to once again support these communities.”

Jessie Fisher, Executive Director of Preservation Buffalo Niagara said, “We know that historic preservation is the most socially and environmentally sustainable choice, but we also know that it is one of the best economic development tools we have in our toolbox.  We are so grateful to Congressman Higgins for sponsoring HR 2825, which will expand the use of tax credits to smaller neighborhoods and main streets across Western New York, and ensure that an even more diverse array of projects benefits even more communities.”

Higgins spoke about critical role Historic Tax Credits play in filling the gap on challenging projects in front of the Hope House, a project in the Broadway Fillmore neighborhood on Buffalo’s East Side.  The $10 million project, led by Matt Urban Center Executive Director Marlies Wesolowski and currently under construction by Savarino Companies, is restoring a long-vacant former school building into family housing units and would not have been possible without $5 million in Historic Tax Credits.

“Buffalo is thriving now, perhaps more than ever, in large part due to the federal historic tax credit program,” said Sam Savarino, CEO of Savarino Companies, whose historic work portfolio also includes 500 Seneca in the Larkinville neighborhood.

Federal Historic Tax Credits

The Historic Tax Credit program incentivizes private sector investment in the rehabilitation and reuse of historic buildings. The Historic Tax Credit program provides a 20% tax credit for the rehabilitation of historic, income-producing properties.  Since its implementation through the Tax Reform Act of 1976, the Historic Tax Credit program has facilitated the rehab of over 44,000 historic properties totaling over $96.87 billion in investment nationwide.  The program supports the creation of jobs and the resurgence of communities, and it benefits the federal government by generating $1.20 return of tax revenue for every dollar invested in the program.

Historic Tax Credit in NYS

In New York State, buildings on the National and State Registers of Historic Places are eligible for the 20% Federal Historic Tax Credit through the National Park Service (NPS) as well as a matching 20% State Tax Credit, up to $5 million, through the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), further incentivizing use of the credit.  This matching program is one of the major reasons why New York State leads the nation in the use of Historic Tax Credits with over $840 million in qualified rehabilitation expenditures in 2018 alone.  

The Impact of Historic Tax Credits in Western New York

Congressman Higgins’ Western New York District, which includes two federally designated National Heritage Areas, and is home to the work of some of the most renowned architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright, Henry Hobson Richardson, and Louise Bethune, is one of the national leaders in the utilization of Historic Tax Credits. 

Historic Tax Credits have made possible some of the most noteworthy historic restoration projects in Downtown Buffalo including restoration of the Electric Tower in 2007, Asbury Hall in 2008, the Guaranty Building in 2009, and the Hotel Lafayette in 2012.

However, over the last couple years, Historic Tax Credits are increasingly being used as a redevelopment tool that is lifting up Western New York neighborhoods in providing affordable housing and new community spaces.  

In 2013 or earlier, $415 million in projects were approved under the National Parks Service in the Buffalo area.  Of these, $257 million, or 62%, were in downtown Buffalo, and $158 million or 38%, were in Buffalo neighborhoods.  While substantial investment has continued downtown under this program, investment under the Historic tax Credit program has now spread out into the neighborhoods in a more significant way since 2013.  From 2014 to today, $851 million in projects were approved under this program.  Of these, $268 million, or 31%, were in downtown Buffalo, and $583 million, or 69%, were in the neighborhoods.

 

 

Total in NY-26

Downtown Buffalo

Downtown Buffalo %

Buffalo Neighborhoods

Buffalo Neighborhood %

2013 and prior

$415,401,724

$257,296,663

61.9%

$158,401,724

38.1%

2014 to present

$583,087,153

$267,508,453

31.4%

$583,087,153

68.6%

 

A few examples of Historic Tax Credit investments in Buffalo neighborhoods include:

  • Humboldt Park Neighborhood: Directly across from Martin Luther King, Jr. Park, a vacant school was transformed into the newly opened Parkview Apartments at 769 Best Street.
  • Larkin District: The Kamman Building at 755 Seneca Street features office, retail and apartments.  The F.N. Burt Box Company building at 500 Seneca was reinvented into a mixed-use development with loft apartments, a center atrium, restaurants and retail.  The AP Lofts at Larkinville opened on Swan Street where the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company Warehouse once operated. 
  • Hamlin Park Neighborhood: The Mattress Factory at 170 Florida Street, once home to the Otis Bed Company, opened last year featuring offices and market rate apartments.
  • West Side/Grant Ferry/Forest Neighborhoods: PUSH Buffalo led a successful community driven conversion of School 77 at 429 Plymouth Avenue into affordable senior apartments, community and non-profit space. The Mentholatum building at 1360 Niagara Street now provides loft living opportunities. 
  • Grider Neighborhood: The Northland Workforce Training Center at 683 Northland Avenue was made possible thanks to several federal investments including New Markets Tax Credits, Community Development Block Grant Funding and one of the region’s largest recent federal Historic Tax Credit allocations totaling over $13.5 million.
  • Black Rock: A number of properties on Chandler Street, including the former Linde Air Products Factory, the Jewett Refrigerator Company Factory and the Double Trust Cornice Brake Company Factory have all benefited from the Historic Tax Credit program.
  • Broadway-Fillmore: A former school at 243 Sears Street is currently undergoing renovations and is set to open as the Hope House this fall offering family housing.
  • South Buffalo: Two Catholic schools that were closed, have been turned into fresh, new affordable housing with the opening of the School Lofts on Abbott (formerly St. Thomas Aquinas) and the School Lofts @ Seneca (previously St. Theresa’s School).   The historic Shea’s Seneca theatre was also brought back to life with the opening of Shea’s Seneca apartments, retail and event space. 

 

Niagara Falls has also successfully incorporated Historic Tax Credits into community renewal.  Examples include the 2010 restoration of the United Office Building and the 2018 reuse project at South Junior High School.  The towering art deco United Office Building, which was abandoned in the 1980s, was brought back to life with an $8 million investment transforming the building into The Giacomo luxury boutique hotel.  The more recent $22.9 million adaptive reuse project repurposed South Junior High School, which sat vacant for over a decade, into Niagara City Lofts, a fully occupied mixed-income residential housing development. 

Currently under construction is Hotel Niagara, a $42 million project led by Empire State Development restoring the 1920s-built building which has been closed since 2007.  The State is using federal and state Historic Tax Credits to supplement the rehab.

New opportunities for Historic Tax Credit use in Niagara Falls neighborhoods are sure to come.  Local development firm Blue Cardinal Capital recently purchased 38 properties in the area of Main Street, crediting removal of the Robert Moses Parkway which Congressman Higgins championed and secured funding for, as the driving reason that makes acquisition attractive.  The firm expressed interest in utilizing Historic Tax Credits to aid in the restoration of these properties. 

Building on the Success of Historic Tax Credits

Higgins, who serves on the House Ways and Means Committee which oversees tax policy, fought against the Administration’s proposed elimination of the Historic Tax Credit program and is an original cosponsor of H.R. 2825, the Historic Tax Credit Growth and Opportunity (HTC-GO) Act of 2019, which was introduced in the House of Representatives in May. This bill would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to make it easier to finance small historic rehabilitation deals, make more buildings eligible for historic tax credits, and improve the ability of tax-exempt projects, like community health centers, schools and other community services, to qualify for the program.