July 22--HARRISBURG -- In a state that boasts one of the nation's richest rosters of historic buildings, the long-awaited historic-preservation tax-credit program has become a reality.
Two years after Gov. Corbett signed a bill creating tax incentives for restoring older buildings, the first recipients have been named -- among them three high-profile projects in Philadelphia.
The Department of Community and Economic Development said Monday that it had awarded a total of $3 million in tax credits to 15 commercial projects in 10 counties, including, in Philadelphia, the redevelopment of the old Liberty Title & Trust building next to the Convention Center; the restoration of Park Towne Place Apartments on the Parkway; and the adaptive reuse of St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Germantown.
Advocates have worked for two decades lobbying lawmakers to approve tax-credit legislation in Pennsylvania, as more than 30 other states have done.
"It's very good news," said Rep. Robert Freeman (D., Northampton), who has been fighting for the bill's passage for years.
The credits -- for up to 25 percent of project costs -- were supposed to be rolled out in 2013, but were delayed as guidelines were developed, Corbett administration officials said.
As recently as a few weeks ago, the program appeared endangered. It was among several on the chopping block during the budget struggle as the legislature sought to reduce spending. But in the end, it was included in the $29.1 billion budget.
While the overall state funding and individual credit awards are small, combined with federal tax credits, the incentives add up, supporters say.
"With the larger federal credits, they hold great potential for being a catalyst for revitalization in communities where they are used," said Freeman. "And they bring home the fact historic properties are part of our state's great heritage and great assets to be utilized."
Ken Weinstein of 6008 Development Associates said his project to restore and convert the former St. Peter's complex in Germantown into a Waldorf School would not be completed without the $250,000 state tax credit.
"This tax credit is significant," he said, "because it allows us to finish the fourth building that we didn't have funds to finish."
The building, known as the chapel, was designed in 1873 by Philadelphian George W. Hewlitt. He and his partner, Frank Furness, were among the most celebrated American architects of the 19th century.
Weinstein said he also received $1 million in federal tax credits, which made his $6 million project in a transitional neighborhood like Germantown feasible.
Realen Broad Street Partners won a $250,000 tax credit to restore the old Liberty Title & Trust, at Broad and Arch Streets.
Developer Dennis Maloomian declined to give the total project cost, but said combined federal and state credits would allow him to move forward with his project to turn the 21-story Art Deco tower into a hotel.
"We want to restore and renovate it," said Maloomian of the 1926 building that has sat derelict for a decade. "We are taking advantage of every opportunity."
The third approved project in Southeastern Pennsylvania is for the restoration of the Park Towne Place Apartments in Franklintown, an International Style complex of four buildings built in the late 1950s. Park Towne Place Associates L.P. was approved for $158,000 in tax credits.
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