Missed opportunity on credits

'We will not proceed without tax credits.'

Cornish Associates President and CEO Arnold “Buff” Chase said his company has five historic Providence buildings lined up to buy and restore once Rhode Island brings back its historic tax credit program. More

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FOCUS: HISTORIC PRESERVATION

Missed opportunity on credits

'We will not proceed without tax credits.'

Posted 7/2/12

Cornish Associates President and CEO Arnold “Buff” Chase said his company has five historic Providence buildings lined up to buy and restore once Rhode Island brings back its historic tax credit program.

But his wait will continue for another year.

Despite a last-minute push and compromise bill, efforts to bring the state historic tax credits back before the end of this year’s legislative session were denied by House leadership last month.

As a result, Cornish, which hasn’t embarked on a new downtown historic project since 2005, and other developers say they will remain on the sidelines as far as historic renovation projects are concerned until something changes.

“We will not proceed on any of our projects downtown without tax credits,” Chase said. “For us it is a real blow, and we think it was really a bad policy of the leadership to not push this forward. I feel like in this recession, if we had gotten the credits, we would have created activity to prime the pump and get the economy moving again.”

Since the historic tax credit program was suspended in 2008, the development, preservation and building trade communities have tried a number of tweaks and alterations to the program to revive it.

The proposal put forward by the Senate in the waning days of the legislative session looked to fund projects only from the $25 million pool of tax credits developers reserved in 2008 that have since been abandoned.

Under the proposal, Rhode Island’s tax credits, which had been worth 30 percent of eligible construction costs, would have been scaled back to 20 percent.

Still recovering from the failed efforts to get a bill passed last week, members of the coalition of businesses and organizations pushing for the credits vowed to try again next year and said the Senate’s $25 million abandoned-credit approach could be the basis for the next push.

“It’s early, but I do think the Senate came up with an intriguing approach to build off the relinquished credits,” said Scott Wolf, executive director of Grow-Smart Rhode Island, which led the effort to bring back the credits. “It’s possible that could be the way to go next year, but it is early.”

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