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Editorial: Historic tax credits can't be allowed to die

Killing the federal historic tax credit – as the Republican tax cut framework envisions – would mean Buffalo’s grand old buildings still awaiting attention will not be brought back to life in the manner of the Hotel @ the Lafayette, the Guaranty Building, the Richardson Olmsted Complex and so many others.

It would also mean thousands of jobs and many millions of dollars in tax revenues stemming from the tax credit would dry up.

No more beautiful loft apartments, retail and offices inside historic, but deteriorated, buildings. No more critical mass gathering momentum in once moribund neighborhoods. In short, a brake on Buffalo’s revival. That is, unless lawmakers force a course change.

The federal tax credit has been a catalyst for developers this century, subsidizing renovations of historic buildings and helping finance 65 major development projects in the Buffalo area between 2002 and 2016.

Both state and federal historic tax credits have been critical in moving projects along. Developers use them to lure private capital for historic projects, most of them in the Northeast. Banks and other investors use the credits for substantial tax breaks and share in profits from successful projects.

The credits have been used on a half-dozen buildings along a recently renewing Niagara Street, including the Mentholatum and Crescendo Lofts, as News staff reporter Mark Sommer wrote. Downtown restaurants Tappo and Toutant have also benefited from the credits, along with downtown apartment and loft conversions. Two enormous conversion projects in the works – the Trico and AM&A’s buildings – will need the credits.

There is strong support for the credits in the local congressional delegation. Reps. Tom Reed, R-Corning, Chris Collins, R-Clarence, and Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, along with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, both New York Democrats, have all voiced support for the tax credit.

Higgins and Reed sit on the Ways and Means Committee, and can influence tax legislation that reaches the House floor. Collins has been a strong supporter of President Trump and, as a developer, has used historic tax credits.

Schumer has said: “They tried to cut it out of the last budget; we restored it. They’re now trying to cut it out of this budget; hopefully we’ll restore it.”
They need to be successful. The development momentum building in Buffalo depends on it.

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