A tax credit for rehabilitating historic buildings is important not only to connect our citizens to the history of our state, but also as an economic development tool.
Historic preservation creates jobs and taxes. A rehabilitation tax credit project has significant impact on the surrounding area. One tax credit project can stimulate revitalization of an entire commercial district or neighborhood and create many jobs. This is true in smaller cities and towns, just as in large cities.
Since 2006, during a difficult economic climate, this program has provided incentive for the completion of 20 projects totaling $163,973,015 in construction costs, which added jobs and taxes to Oklahoma's economy. A 2007 study by Rutgers University and the Center for Urban Policy Research found that $125 million spent on historic rehabilitation resulted in 2,530 jobs created.
Historic preservation is sustainable. When an existing building, historic or not, is demolished in favor of a new building, the existing structure ends up in the landfill. Rehabilitation therefore limits the amount of building materials being hauled to landfills. Historic preservation also keeps construction work local; these projects often create more, longer-lasting and higher-paying jobs than new construction.
The historic rehabilitation tax credit helps put existing historic buildings in Oklahoma communities back into productive use. Every community has a unique character expressed in its built environment; the buildings that exemplify such character provide exciting, attractive places to live, work and play. Communities dedicated to the preservation of their unique character and heritage attract tourism, which brings revenue into the state.
Critics of tax credits often cite abuse of the credits. The historic rehabilitation tax credit is cheat-proof. The credit isn't earned until the work is completed and certified. This tax credit generates a finished product each and every time.
Oklahoma has lost too many treasures already. Eliminating this important economic development tool would only further denigrate the people's appreciation, knowledge and connection to Oklahoma's unique history.
The historic rehabilitation tax credit is a small investment for the myriad benefits it yields. Can you imagine downtown Oklahoma City without the Skirvin Hotel or downtown Tulsa without the Mayo Hotel? Imagine Perry without its historic 1910 Building or Muskogee without the Severs Block or Alva without the Bell Hotel. Historic rehabilitation with the development incentive of a tax credit is making a positivie difference across Oklahoma.
Seamans, of Norman, is principal of D5 Architecture Co. and president of the Central Oklahoma chapter of the American Institute of Architects.