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Marietta learns about historic structures

Meeting explores preserving history in productive buildings

Photo by Janelle Patterson Marietta Main Street Director Cristie Thomas talks with Ohio Rep. Jay Edwards, R-Nelsonville, Monday during a historic tax credit discussion in Marietta.

A caffeine-infused rundown of how to preserve history while returning structures to productive use brought together Columbus decision-makers and local property developers Monday in Marietta.

Marietta Main Street hosted a coffee discussion Monday between the interests to share requirements, steps and avenues to utilize federal and state historic preservation tax incentives.

Heritage Ohio’s Executive Director Joyce Bertram moderated the discussion, inviting Barbara Powers, who manages the National Register process for Ohio; Nathan Bevil, a technical preservation services manager at the state historic preservation office; and Lisa Brownell, a program manager with the Ohio Development Services Office, to share their expertise.

The National Register, Powers said, is the official list of properties recognized across the nation as worthy of preservation and is managed by the National Park Service.

“It tells you (that) you have something worthy of preservation,” she explained. “And Ohio is the third state in the nation in the number of listings.”

Photo by Janelle Patterson Lisa Brownell, left, explains state historic preservation tax credit programs available for small projects to Whitney Cruells, of Marietta, on Monday.

Powers said the three ingredients for recognition on that register include:

• Age: 50 years or older.

• Significance: For national, state or local history.

“This focuses on broad patterns across history, individuals or an architecturally or engineering significance– or to better understand prehistory like with our archaeological sites,” she explained.

• Historic integrity: Retention of sufficient physical characteristics to help one understand the story associated with that landmark.

“It doesn’t mean the properties have never changed over time,” delineated Powers. “Just that is there enough left to point to that tells that story.”

With those criteria for what is “historical” enough to qualify for the designation, the conversation then moved to Marietta and Washington County.

Locally both individual structures are recognized on the National Register as areas known as historic districts.

“Historic districts are cohesive collections that tell that story,” said Powers.

She noted that historic districts allow for buildings that while not nationally registered if identified as contributing or being restored add to the cohesive story to also utilize tax benefits with the state and the federal Internal Revenue Service.

Marietta’s period of significance is from 1788 to 1950 according to the current historic district designation.

Then with those characteristics in mind, Bevil and Brownell spoke on the available funding sources and involved agencies to invest, rebate or refund developers on a mission to preserve and repurpose use of existing historic structures.

“Rehabilitation means that a building has changed over time and to be used again needs to change to meet modern needs,” Bevil began. “Within that definition, there are 10 standards based off of three principles: to preserve the historical character, repair versus replacement of historic materials–keeping that historic fabric–and compatibility.”

He guided those in the room to remember that when considering federal tax credits, rehabilitation standards apply to both interior and exterior changes and that the end result must be income-producing to qualify.

“So an owner-occupied space would not qualify, but an owner that say, wants to use the credit in renovating a house or a second floor for a rentable apartment, would,” said Bevil.

He pointed to examples of Ohio projects large and small which were successful in utilizing the federal incentive including the conversion of the Kent Hotel into veteran supportive housing and Washington School in Washington Courthouse into senior housing with a community gathering space.

The distinction though between federal tax credits and the state programs, Bevil and Brownwell pointed to is not in eligibility, but competition.

The Federal Historic Preservation Tax Credit is not competitive, can offer up to a 20 percent tax credit, there’s no annual program time or project cap and is administered through the state historic preservation office in coordination with the National Park Service and Internal Revenue Service.

The Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit is competitive, scored based on economic impact, developer readiness, local support and location.

“And we’re fortunate that the state legislature continues to allocate funding in their budgets to support this effort,” said Brownell, pointing to Ohio Rep. Jay Edwards, R-Nelsonville.

She explained that the competitive nature of the grant also has balances in place to score under-served communities higher– noting no state credits have yet been used in Noble, Morgan or Monroe counties and only twice have the credits been used in Washington County (Peoples Bank Theatre and Perry & Associates in Marietta).

“But for the smaller projects, if they qualify they almost always eventually get funding,” Brownell explained after the meeting to interested developer Whitney Cruells, of Marietta.

Brownell also explained different funding mechanisms within the state program to aid developers in investigating the potential historical significance of a structure.

“Please apply,” implored Brownell. “You rarely hear agencies asking you to ask for money, but here we want it to be utilized and we have yet to run out each year with this pipeline initiative.”

Cruells said she learned much from the program Monday and was excited to dive deeper into the state and federal opportunities with the gathered expertise.

“The more I ask questions, not just here but with each of the city departments and as we’ve been looking into opportunities the more helpful everyone has been,” she said, noting both she and her husband are reviewing options to develop within city limits.

For more information, Powers can be reached at bpowers@ohiohistory.org, Brownwell can be reached at lisa.brownwell@development.ohio.gov and Bevil can be reached at nbevil@ohiohistory.org.

Janelle Patterson can be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

The State Historic Preservation Office role in tax incentives for preservation:

• Identify historic places and archaeological sites.

• Nominate eligible properties to the National Register of Historic Places.

• Review rehabilitation work to income-producing National Register properties for federal investment tax credits and eligibility for competitive state historic preservation programs.

Source: Ohio History Connection.

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