Restore Oregon proposes state tax credit for rehabilitating historic buildings

st francis hotel albany
Preservation group Restore Oregon says a state historic rehabilitation tax credit could make a restoration of the St. Francis Hotel in Albany financially viable. (Restore Oregon)

Elliot Njus | enjus@oregonian.comBy Elliot Njus | enjus@oregonian.com 
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on January 24, 2014 at 10:54 AM, updated January 24, 2014 at 11:11 AM

Restore Oregon, a Portland-based historic preservation organization, said Friday it would push for a new state tax credit to promote rehabilitating historic buildings.

A state income tax credit based on the cost of rehabilitating a building — typically 20 to 25 percent of the project cost in other states with such a credit — would help close the “development gap” that makes those projects prohibitively expensive, said Peggy Moretti, Restore Oregon’s executive director.

“There’s very clearly a huge need in main streets all over the state,” Moretti said. “They really do need additional support to become reactivated and more vibrant.”

Restore Oregon says 2,600 commercial properties in the state are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and could benefit from a rehabilitation tax credit. Two-thirds are outside of Portland.

A report the group released Tuesday highlights the St. Francis Hotel, a four-story, 34,000-square-foot hotel that’s mostly vacant. A 20 percent tax credit — paired with federal tax credits and local urban renewal funds — would make a $10.5 million renovation economically viable, according to the group’s analysis, allowing a developer to reopen much of the building with 20 hotel rooms, 14 apartments and ground-floor retail.

“It really is a linchpin property in Albany’s downtown,” Moretti said. “The impact if that building were revitalized is huge, and there are examples of that all over the state.”

Thirty-four other states already have historic rehabilitation tax credits. Citing a Rutgers University study of federal preservation tax credits, Restore Oregon said a $1 million investment in historic rehabilitation has a greater effect in job creation and additional tax revenue than the same investment in new construction.

Moretti said her group hopes legislation could be introduced in 2015.

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