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Western New York Community Joins Congressman Higgins in Push to Protect Federal Historic Tax Credits

Oct 23, 2017
Press Release
Program Creating Jobs, Fueling Economic Renaissance & Breathing New Life into the Region’s Historic Buildings is at Risk of Elimination | In the Last 5 Years, Historic Tax Credits Were Used to Rehab Nearly 70 Landmarks in the Buffalo-Niagara Region Representing Investments Totaling Over $468 Million

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26), economic development leaders, preservationists and others advancing adaptive reuse of Western New York’s historic properties, came together to stress the critical importance of maintaining federal Historic Tax Credits (HTC).  Higgins serves as Vice Ranking Member of the House Committee on Ways and Means, which oversees tax policy and will debate tax reform in the months ahead.  Historic Tax Credits were not included in the tax reform packages recently proposed by the Majority in the House and Senate.  

“The Western New York region boasts impeccable works by famed architects like Frank Lloyd Wright, H.H. Richardson, Louis Sullivan, and many others,” said Congressman Higgins. “Those unique pieces of this community’s history tell our story, but without Historic Tax Credits they would sit crumbling or be lost entirely.  Many of the projects that are inspiring a return to downtown living or creating new energy where vacant structures once stood would not be possible without Historic Tax Credits.  The program provides older communities like ours a critical tool to drive private sector investments that are creating jobs and fueling our economy.” 

The Western New York public and private sector leaders pushing for continuation of Federal Historic Tax Credits stood at Shea’s Seneca, located along the Seneca Street business corridor in South Buffalo, which is currently utilizing Historic Tax Credits as it undergoes a $9 million rehabilitation.

Jake Schneider, President of Schneider Design Architects & Schneider Development Services, said, “Western New York has a rich architectural legacy that provides us with an incredible sense of place. Without this program, almost every one of these redeveloped structures would still be dilapidated, vacant, and blighting influences on our communities. Instead, they are back on the tax roles and catalyzing the revitalization of long neglected neighborhoods. The State and Federal Historic Tax Credit programs have by far and away been the most successful economic development tool driving our regional resurgence. Reinvesting in our existing neighborhoods, infrastructure, and assets is as fiscally responsible as it gets.”

Buildings on the National and State Registers of Historic Places are eligible for a 20% Federal Historic Tax Credit through the National Park Service (NPS) and New York State offers a matching 20% State Tax Credit through the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).  If the federal credit were to be discontinued, both the federal and state incentive to invest in historic properties would be eliminated.

In 2016, New York State led the nation in utilizing federal Historic Tax Credits with investments totaling $748 million.  And over the last five years Western New York has led the state in approved Historic Tax Credit projects – 88 in total representing over $532 million in historic rehabilitation.

Robert E. Stark, AIA, President of the American Institute of Architects New York State, said, “Since the program’s inception, the federal historic tax credit has fostered the rehabilitation of over 41,000 buildings, created over two million good paying jobs, and generated $78 billion in investment in underserved communities across the country.  In 2016, New York State led the nation in the use of federal and state historic tax credits to revitalize historic properties.  Without the federal and state historic tax credit program, these historic treasures would remain unused and fall into further disrepair and decay.  As Congress moves forward with the tax reform conversation, we must support the continuation of programs which have a proven track record of success.  I would like to thank Congressman Higgins for his commitment to this crucial program.”

Stark is a Principal at CJS Architects, located in The Kamman Building in Buffalo’s Larkin District.  State and federal historic tax credits were used to rehab the landmark, which features both commercial and residential space and dates back to 1878.

Higgins pointed out a number of projects, currently in various stages of historic adaptive reuse, which could be impacted if federal Historic Tax Credits are eliminated.  “This community has a lot to lose.  Northland Development, Hope House, Hotel Niagara, Liberty Bank and the Central Terminal are just a few of the projects that could be in jeopardy.  Without Historic Tax Credits less money is being invested into the economy, tourists are visiting for shorter stays or not at all, and people won’t be working both on the construction end and in the finished rehabbed projects.”

Jessie Fisher, Executive Director for Preservation Buffalo Niagara said, "The historic tax credit program allows Buffalo to use its historic architecture to create beautiful, vibrant, and environmentally sustainable communities."

Preservation Buffalo Niagara (PBN) reports the Federal Historic Tax Credit has created 4,897 jobs, generated $394 Million in household and business income, and $88 Million in local taxes for the City of Buffalo alone between 2002 and 2015.  PBN’s 2016 Survey of area Developers found that without the Federal Historic Tax Credit and its matching State Historic Tax Credit, historic building rehabilitation and reuse would not happen.

Niagara City Lofts which celebrated its grand opening just last week, represents the largest recent project in the City of Niagara Falls to receive federal and state Historic Tax Credits - $10 million combined. The conversion of South Junior High into affordable apartments and commercial space would not have been feasible without Historic Tax Credits.

Nick Sinatra, President of Sinatra and Company Real Estate said, “Throughout the Rust Belt and in other major urban areas, historic buildings wait for a new chance at life. The federal HTC and other historic tax credit options are a great way to stimulate redevelopment and restoration of historic buildings, and many of these historic buildings would never be redeveloped without the credit.  The HTC is a major economic development tool that must be itself preserved now.”

Sinatra’s portfolio of work tied to Historic Tax Credits includes but is not limited to: The Wayne and Waldorf Apartments on Main Street, a newly renovated historic multi-family structure replicating the original late 19th century apartment building. The Phoenix Brewery Apartments located in the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, an adaptive Reuse of Buffalo’s oldest and 1st brewery into residential and commercial space.  Currently underway is a plan for a $15 million redevelopment of the century-old Pierce Arrow Factory into 73 market-rate apartments.

Steven J Weiss, Esq., Partner, Cannon, Heyman & Weiss, LLP, an attorney who concentrated his practice in Affordable Housing and Community Development Law, added, “Small cities like Buffalo and throughout western New York have seen a resurgence in their economies in part due to the federal tax incentives such as the Historic Tax Credit which allow projects to proceed forward even when the rents haven't caught up. As the last money into a deal and only after a project has been completed, the Historic Tax Credit reflects an incentive that delivers as promised. Congressman Brian Higgins understands this and his support for the Historic Tax Credit has been unwavering as these incentives have served as the fuel for countless projects in our region.”

According to a National Parks Service report, in FY 2015 Historic Tax Credit-related investments generated approximately 86,000 jobs, were responsible for $4.8 billion in GDP, and generated $3.5 billion in income nationwide.

Congressman Higgins’ office created a map pinpointing projects within the Buffalo Niagara Region that have been made possible thank to Historic Tax Credits.  To access the interactive map, go to:

New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation data lists nearly 70 projects in Erie and Niagara Counties receiving federal and state Historic Tax Credits between 2013 and 2017.  The total costs invested in rehabilitating Buffalo-Niagara’s older building stock tops $486 million over the 5-year period, resulting in millions more in economic returns.