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Higgins calls for retaining federal historic tax credit

Rep. Brian Higgins on Monday called preserving federal historic tax credits necessary for Buffalo's continued resurgence.

"There is not a better national model for the success of this program than Buffalo, New York," Higgins said.

Developers and preservationists joined him at the old Shea’s Seneca Theatre on Seneca Street in South Buffalo.

Higgins, D-Buffalo, said federal historic tax credits were used in dozens of projects in the Buffalo Niagara region. The credits are not currently included in tax reform packages proposed by the Republican majorities in the U.S. House and the Senate.

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"Within the context of comprehensive tax reform, there is a concern this program could potentially be lost," said Higgins, who serves on the House Ways and Mean Committee.

The committee has jurisdiction on tax policy.

Higgins said he will talk to colleagues in Washington over the next several days to develop a strategy to retain the tax credits, extend them into perpetuity and expand their benefits from 20 percent to 30 percent.

"In the past five years, over 70 landmark projects have been undertaken, representing almost $500 million while fundamentally helping the redevelopment of the city of Buffalo and now into the neighborhoods of Buffalo," Higgins said.

Developer Jake Schneider has used federal historic tax credits to restore the former Shea's Seneca Theatre on Seneca Street.

Developer Nick Sinatra has used federal historic tax credits on six projects and has two others in the pipeline. None of the developments could have happened without them, Sinatra said.

"Without the tax credits, one can argue that most of the development we have seen the last 15 years in this town wouldn't have happened," Sinatra said. "If we didn't have the roots of something big happening over here, I don't think Gov. Cuomo would have come in and put that Buffalo Billion to work here."

Developer Jake Schneider, currently rehabilitating the former movie theater on Seneca Street, said his project depended on the tax credits.

"Taking away this tool would be extremely detrimental," Schneider said.

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