Tax credits available for historic rehab

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NORWAY — In an effort to promote rehabilitation of some of Norway’s 50 historic buildings in the downtown National Historic District, Town Manager David Holt has suggested a workshop be held to educate building owners about state historic rehabilitation tax credits that are available to qualified building owners.

Holt’s idea was sparked by the recent sale of the former L.M. Longley & Son Hardware store at 419 Main St. and the desire to maintain that building and others in the Norway Historic District, which require sometimes costly renovations.

Holt told selectmen at last Thursday’s meeting that he hoped to use some of the proceeds from the sale of the Higgins-Crooker Trust buildings to bring someone to town who could talk about what is available – under certain conditions – to the owners of the 50 or so buildings in the district and owners of any National Historic Register buildings.

The Norway Historic District is roughly bounded by Pearl Street, Danforth Street and Greenleaf Avenue, Pennesseewassee Stream, Main and Whitman streets.

At the time of the filing in 1988, the district contained 64 contributing buildings, both privately and publicly owned, of varying architecture design, including Italianate, Queen Anne and Romanesque. A total of eight noncontributing buildings were in the district at the time of the filing.

Since the district was established in 1988, a few of the contributing buildings, such as the apartment building at 467 Main St. have burned down. One – the Blue Store, considered one of the oldest buildings in the district – was taken down in 2014 after its roof collapsed and the structure was compromised. Another – the so-called Gingerbread House – was moved outside of the district in 2011.

In every historic district the individual properties are defined as either contributing or noncontributing to the character and significance of the district.

For example in the Norway district a building such as Cumberland Farms or Wile’s Garage is within the district but considered a noncontributing structure. They would not be eligible for historic tax credits.

Some of the building owners – such as the nonprofit Norway Opera House Corporation – have taken advantage of the tax credits to finance renovations in buildings.

Buildings must be certified as being on the National Register of Historic Places or be a contributing building in a National Register District, such as the Norway Opera House.

Phase 4 of the Opera House restoration – the rehabilitation of the second floor hall as an arts, performance and community multi-use space – will be paid for with community support, grants and use of Maine and National Historic tax credits.

According to the Maine Historic Preservation, there are various tax credits available.

In addition to a 20 percent federal income tax credit for the rehabilitation of historic structures that was first initiated in 1976 for the rehabilitation of certified historic structures, Maine implemented the State Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program in 2008, which includes a 25 percent state credit for any rehabilitation that also qualifies for the 20 percent federal credit and meets all of the requirements of the federal tax incentive program.

The program also includes the “Small Project Rehabilitation Credit,” a 25 percent state credit for the rehabilitation of certified historic structures with certified qualified rehabilitation expenditures of between $50,000 and $250,000.

According to information from Maine Historic Preservation, this credit is available to entities that do not claim the federal rehabilitation credit. Applicants must meet all federal tax code qualifications except the substantial investment requirement.

There are other tax credits including an affordable housing rehabilitation credit increase, and others that Holt said he hopes will be explained to building owners who hope to maintain their historic buildings.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net