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Elimination of Popular Historic Tax Credit Could Threaten Redevelopment Projects

The renovation of older buildings in Syracuse and Upstate New York could face a more uncertain future without a popular economic development tool.  Those hoping to save the federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit form the chopping block in Congress gathered Tuesday in the Persian Terrace at the Hotel Syracuse to sound the alarm.  The hotel’s lead developer Ed Riley has his credit already in hand, and says the project wouldn’t be possible without it.  

"This would be a shell.  It would eventually be either renovated not keeping it in historic character, or possibly even torn down.  The rehabilitation tax credits allow us to leverage the private financing here, asking for less direct taxpayer subsidies, and insuring we have the funds to properly restore this building and get it back."

Riley says federal and state tax credits account for about $6 million of the project’s nearly $62 million cost.  President of Centerstate CEO Rob Simpson says downtown Syracuse wouldn’t be seeing a renaissance without the thread of the federal credit running thorough the various buildings.

In the last decade, Simpson says $163 million  worth of projects in Centerstate’s 12 county region have taken advantage of the credit.  Congressmember Dan Maffei says there’s an effort by some in Congress to eliminate nearly all tax credits as part of tax reform.  He says the danger is that only part of the proposal might pass.

"You'd save some of the more popular tax breaks, which is fine, the ones that  are well known, and I support a lot of those.  But something like the historic preservation tax credit where, in your everyday life, you don't necessarily see those benefits.   Or you might see the benefits, but you don't necessarily say, oh, that's because of this historic tax credit.  That would be left behind."

Preservationists worry that as long as the historic rehabilitation tax credit is threatened, developers will wait on the sidelines before going forward with their projects.  Supporters of the credit are not only hoping to save it, but enhance the program to make it available to smaller, mixed use projects.  The measure has the support of New York’s senators and Maffei, who says  no action is expected in this Congress.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at