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State Historic Preservation Office leads program on historic tax credits

By Liz Moomey
liz.moomey@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The N.C. State Historic Preservation Office taught historic property owners how to take advantage of historic tax credits at the Salisbury Station Thursday night.

As the Historic Salisbury Foundation celebrated preservation month, Ramona Murphy Bartos, the deputy state historic preservation officer, and Brett Sturm, the restoration specialist of the State Historic Preservation Office, spoke about historic rehabilitation tax credits that owners of both income-producing properties and non-income producing properties can go after to make historic projects less costly.

“Our goal is to help you figure out how to keep your historic building in use but maintain aspects of its character,” Sturm said.

He said the answer is through taxes. There are federal historic tax credits and North Carolina piggybacks with an additional 15%, with more credits possible to be added. An example is if the property is used for agriculture.

Both Bartos and Sturm noted Salisbury was a leader in historic preservation in North Carolina. They also noted the city’s facade grant program.

Between 1977 and 2018, Salisbury completed 84 income-producing historic tax credit projects, with a total investment of more than $33.1 million.

Some of the top projects included the Mayfield Building at 221 N. Main St., which was completed in 2003 bringing $4.9 million in total investment; Calvin H. Wiley School, 200 Ridge Ave., with an $3.5 million investment in 1992; and the Hamley Wallace House, 508 S. Fulton St., in 2012 at a $2 million investment.

They also told attendees that Rowan County was eighth in the state for number of projects despite being 21st in the state in population.

“This is where you have some bragging rights that I think a lot of communities are striving for, they want to emulate you — the value that you’ve placed on historic preservation and economic development working together,” Bartos said.

She said Salisbury has been focused on historic preservation since the mid-1970s.

“Y’all have been up to this for a long time,” she said. ”1975 is a little while ago.”

Properties that can qualify for the tax credits either are listed on the National Register of Historic Place or a contributing structure in the historic district, Sturm said.

When restoring a property, Sturm has what he calls “10 commandments.” Owners should know why a property is is historic and what makes it historic. He said to think about what it was previously used for and how to modify it into a similar use. He said the Old Tractor Building was turned into New Sarum Brewery, fitting with the high ceilings, so that having tanks does not impact the structure. He also said to consider the next owner and what they would inherit.

Bartos and Sturm spoke about the sunsetting of the Historic Tax Credits in North Carolina on Jan. 1, 2020. Two bills, Senate Bill 622 and House Bill 966, would push it to sunset in 2024. House Bill 399 would extend it to 2030, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Harry Warren, R-76.

Leah Campion, the foundation’s events coordinator, asked if using alternative material would still qualify for the tax credits.

“When it comes to using substitute materials, within the confines of the tax credit project, it’s possible. It depends on the location in the building, the condition of the original material, whether or not the original material is still there,” Sturm said.

He continued, saying this is a hot topic in historic preservation. Ideally, the original material should be salvaged and repaired if possible, he said, and if it needs to be replaced, it has to be the same material.

Bartos said the State Historic Preservation Office’s goal is to “foster the public’s appreciation of these irreplaceable places.”

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