Historic tax credit increase one part of WV revenue bill

Gazette-Mail file photo
Tighe Bullock stands inside a first-floor entry of the Staats Hospital Building in 2014. Ric Cavender, of Charleston Main Streets, touted Bullock’s West Side work as one of the success stories of tax credits for historic renovations.

A measure to increase tax credits available to developers restoring historic buildings remains alive during the special session of the state Legislature.

The measure, which is part of the wide-ranging revenue bill currently going through the Legislature, would increase the tax credit rate for restoring historic buildings from 10 percent to 25 percent of the total cost of renovations.

The measure also includes a tax credit cap of $3.75 million for each building.

The credit is available for residential and non-residential buildings statewide that are defined as certified historic structures.

Officials statewide have advocated for the change, saying it could encourage developers to revive historic buildings that remain empty.

Ric Cavender, executive director of Charleston Main Streets, said he’s witnessed how the tax credits have transformed Charleston already, citing current work on the West Side.

Cavender said over the last 15 years, $450 million worth of public and private investment dollars have been put into the development of Charleston’s East End and West Side.

But Cavender believes a change needs to be made to encourage more development. He said surrounding states have higher tax credit rates, encouraging developers to pursue business in states like Pennsylvania.

Cavender said Charleston lost out on at least one development project when the original bill died in the Legislature during the regular session. The developer, who was following the bill, was very interested in pursuing a project in Charleston and reached out to Cavender.

When the bill died, he pulled out of the project, saying costs would be too high, Cavender said, adding that he wants to make sure situations like these don’t happen again.

“We need to cultivate every scenario, so that these developers say ‘yes’ to West Virginia instead of ‘no,’” Cavender said.

If approved, the program would create not only construction jobs for the renovations , but also jobs related to businesses opening in the renovated buildings, Cavender said.

State legislators who voted against the bill during the regular session said they were opposed to the increase because of the $200 million budget deficit.

Kelli Sobonya, R-Cabell, said she voted against the bill because she believes the state can’t afford to provide the incentives.

“We’ve got to balance the budget before we do this,” Sobonya said.

She also said there wasn’t enough information about how the money would be divvied out to public officials if they were involved in renovations, including Gov. Jim Justice. While the program would cost the state money, Cavender believes the state’s expenses on the program are offset by revenue from the businesses.

“We see it at as a win-win,” Cavender said.

If passed, the change would go into effect July 1.

Reach Ali Schmitz at ali.schmitz@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4843 or follow @SchmitzMedia on Twitter.

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