Some strings have been attached to Marietta's pursuit of more than $1 million in state and federal historic preservation tax credits for the Armory Square rehabilitation project, but Mayor Michael Mullen says the inconvenience will be worth it.
"The level of preservation tax credit we're seeking requires the (U.S.) Secretary of the Interior's approval and undergoes a more thorough review. We weren't anticipating that," Mullen said.
Earlier this month, a team from the Ohio Historic Preservation Office visited the armory site and reviewed design plans for renovation of the facility that the mayor said are about 90 percent complete.
"Their biggest concern was moving the elevator shaft," Mullen said.
The current design plans locate the elevator shaft at the south end of the armory, but the preservation team said the elevator should be placed on the back side of the building.
Kevin Crock, project manager with the city engineer's office, said the group also took issue with the proposed design of a canopy over a walkway near the parking lot at the south end of the building.
About the program
The Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit program provides a tax credit for the rehabilitation expenses to owners of historically designated buildings. To be eligible for the 25 percent tax credit on qualified rehabilitation expenditures:
The applicant must be the fee simple owner of the building described in the application.
The building must be listed on the National Register of Historic Places; be located in a registered historic district and certified by Ohio's preservation officer as being of historic significance to the district or listed as a historic landmark by a certified local government.
The rehabilitation work as described in the application must be consistent with the United States Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation.
The issuance of an Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit must be a major factor in the applicant's decision to rehabilitate the historic building or to increase the level of investment in the rehabilitation of the historic building.
Source: Ohio Department of Development at development.ohio.gov
"Our architect had given the canopy roof an arched shape, but (the preservation team) said it should be flat to match the rest of the building," Crock said. "There were no other design concerns, but we had talked about putting solar panels on the roof of the building for energy efficiency, and they were concerned about how we would be putting those panels in."
He said drawings for the solar panel installation had not been completed, and the team from the preservation office wanted to see those plans before making a recommendation on awarding the state tax credits toward the project.
"They specifically said they need to see how we'll address these issues, and they still made no promise that there wouldn't be other concerns," Crock said. "But they are responsible for making a recommendation to the National Park Service (that administers the tax credit program) on the project by the end of May."
Mullen said the state tax credits, if awarded, would mean an estimated $880,000 for the armory project, and would be followed by an application for similar federal credits that could garner an additional $300,000 or more.
"This would be very important new money for the project, in addition to approximately $2.5 million we've already received through grants and donations," he said.
If the tax credits are not awarded, Mullen said the city would not be required to change any of the project design.
"So we're not going to spend additional monies on some re-design until we hear if we've been awarded the tax credits," he said. "We should know next month if we've received conditional approval from the historic preservation review. And we're doing our best to have a formal groundbreaking for the project on July 4."
Mullen said the state historic preservation review would also satisfy the federal requirements when the city applies for those tax credits.
Hunt Brawley, director of the Hippodrome/Colony Historic Theatre Association, also sought and received approval for state historic preservation tax credits to help renovate the theatre in downtown Marietta.
"Our design was approved, but there were some minor issues we had to address," he said. "It can be difficult as we're trying to preserve an historic building, but incorporate some 21st Century standards, so the historic preservation folks have to give a little sometimes."
Brawley said the association is also discussing the installation of solar panels on the theatre's roof, but no firm decision has been made. And the group is currently applying for a grant from the Ohio Department of Development to renovate the theatre's original geothermal air conditioning system.
But he added that the historic tax credits are most important to the Colony project.
"For us it's critical," Brawley said. "The funding represents about 50 percent of our entire project."