Revitalization

Change is Brewing in Baltimore

Posted on: September 10th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Written by Erica Stewart

Baltimore's American Brewery building. (Photo: Paul Burk)

Baltimore's American Brewery building. (Photo: Paul Burk)

This is the second in a series of blog posts featuring projects that have creatively adapted historic buildings to fit new uses, bringing essential services, jobs, and civic pride to their community. These retrofits have transformed an opulent theatre, a rural schoolhouse, a Beaux Arts post office, among others—and all utilized federal historic tax credit equity from the National Trust Community Investment Corporation (NTCIC).  The National Trust Community Investment Corporation, celebrating its 10th anniversary and $330 million in dollars invested, is a proud partner in more than 60 amazing transformations.

To behold the full power of preservation, look no further than Baltimore, Maryland. NTCIC has a $26 million track record of investment in four projects there, a city rich in historic resources, the political will to save them, and the financial tools to do it. The impact of rehabilitating Baltimore’s well-worn treasures goes far beyond their four walls. Historic rehabilitation projects can not only transform buildings, but entire communities.

Need proof? Two examples from opposite sides of Baltimore sing out.  Take the historic Hippodrome Theatre—now known as the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center—the site of a $71 million rehabilitation that reinvented West Baltimore as a destination for world-class theater, and in the process, ushered in tremendous economic benefit for the city. Over a five-year period, the theatre is projected to yield $26 million in expenditures, about $18 million in personal income, 490 permanent jobs and $1.9 million in state and local tax receipts.

On the other side of town, a world away from velvet ropes and Broadway shows, the reuse of a former brewery building in East Baltimore has saved an abandoned landmark from ruin, and buoyed an entire neighborhood’s chances for revival as well.

One of the completed interior spaces in the American Brewery building. (Photo: Paul Burk)

One of the completed interior spaces in the American Brewery building. (Photo: Paul Burk)

The American Brewery Brewhouse was built in East Baltimore in 1887, its five-story tower making it one of the tallest gravity-fed breweries in North America and an imposing witness to the community’s boom—and eventual bust.  Vacated in 1973 after brewery operations ceased, the building deteriorated while the neighborhood sunk into poverty and crime, drug use and violence surged. Various redevelopment schemes for the brewhouse were proposed and failed, earning the building “white elephant” status and symbolizing the despair felt by the entire community.

Then, in 2005, the nonprofit organization Humanin, Inc., a 40-year old social services organization based in suburban Maryland, happened across the building on a scouting mission and it was love at first sight. Having snuck inside, the building’s vast potential—despite ankle-deep pigeon guano and rotting roof and timbers—was  evident, as was the surrounding community’s need for Humanim’s services  (they provide workforce development training to persons with barriers to employment).

In April 2009, their dream to make the brewhouse their organization’s headquarters became reality. Two-hundred fifty of its employees relocated there—bringing with them their need for restaurants, retail, vendors, etc. --and 40 individuals from the surrounding community were hired.  This impact is in addition to the project’s estimated $12.6 million in household and business income and $1.3 million in state and local taxes. I don’t have to say that this represents a huge boost to an area with 51% percent poverty and unemployment at four times the national average.

Equally exciting is that the brewhouse rehabilitation is not the only sign of hope in the community. Johns Hopkins has a medical complex in development nearby, a light- rail station is in the works, and Humanim has plans to take on the bottling building on the brewery campus next.

In its bold moves forward, Broadway East is not losing its past. In keeping with historic tax credit requirements, the brewery’s exterior was preserved, a wooden grain elevator that carried malt to the tower is now visible through Plexiglas, and salvaged brew tanks serve as meeting rooms (including the so-called ‘Think Tank’), the reception desk, a board room fireplace and the exterior sign.

The result? Rather than being best known as backdrop to grim scenes from HBO’s The Wire, the American Brewery brewhouse is now a clear beacon of hope, and living proof that a community can retrace its past to find its future.

Erica Stewart is the outreach coordinator for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s community revitalization department.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Investing in New Orleans' Past Brightens its Present – and Future

Posted on: September 3rd, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Erica Stewart

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the National Trust’s historic tax credit equity investing business: an endeavor that has brought more than $330 million to the rehabilitation of 60+ commercial buildings nationwide.  Support from the National Trust Community Investment Corporation (NTCIC) has helped revive vacant and abandoned structures that were once lively vaudeville theaters, bustling department stores, revered office buildings, and various others: a Masonic Temple, a brewery, a gas station, a jail, to name a few.

In celebration of the 10th anniversary milestone, PreservationNation will be featuring ten adaptive use projects financed in part by NTCIC. You may be surprised to learn of the amazing transformations that are happening across the county—even in these challenging economic times. They are a testament to the creativity and imagination of the human spirit, the durability of historic buildings, and the strong economic benefit of preserving them. You may even recognize one from a favorite city street near you.

In honor of another anniversary—but hardly grounds for celebration—our first project spotlight takes us to Louisiana five years after Hurricane Katrina. This is a place where, thanks in part to additional federal incentives, NTCIC has invested $60 million in $117 million worth of historic rehabilitation projects that are bringing life and economic development back to the storm-battered areas.  These range from a former furniture showroom conversion into a dynamic community center currently ongoing in New Orleans’ gritty Bywater (a project covered here) to the elegant remodel of the bedraggled Hotel Pontchartrain in the fashionable Lower Garden District.

The Pontchartrain Hotel

The Pontchartrain Hotel in New Orleans’ Lower Garden District.

The Pontchartrain Hotel in New Orleans’ Lower Garden District.

The Pontchartrain Hotel stands 14 stories above St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans’ Lower Garden district and was the tallest building in the city when it was constructed in 1927.  Its history is a mostly glorious one, as its lush furnishings and one-of-a-kind antiques represented the epitome of luxury travel. Stars such as Richard Burton and Mary Martin stayed there when they came to town, and both had suites named after them. Many prominent New Orleanians such as Edith Stern, the Sears and Roebuck heiress, and Frankie Besthoff, whose family co-founded the K&B drugstore chain, called it home.

"In its heyday, it was considered one of the very best hotels in the country," said Honore Aschaffenburg, grandson of the hotel's founder. "It evoked some of the best qualities of New Orleans -- the wonderful, gregarious nature of the people who live here and how they enjoy entertaining and interacting with one another."

Its beloved high-end restaurant, the Caribbean Room, was equally popular among celebrities—Walt Disney, Ginger Rogers and Tennessee Williams to name a few—and for its extravagant dessert, a gravity-defying combination of ice cream and meringue known as the “mile-high pie.”

The lobby of the restored Pontchartrain Hotel.

The lobby of the restored Pontchartrain Hotel.

The Pontchartrain lost some of its luster in the latter part of the 20th century, as the number of hotels downtown and in the French Quarter expanded. Hurricane Katrina’s rage delivered only a glancing blow in 2005, but the ensuing dampness, utility outages, and vandalism caused extensive interior deterioration. The building closed in 2007 while new building owners David Burrus and George Newton III mounted a campaign to save the Pontchartrain from destruction. In 2008 they launched a $21 million historic rehabilitation effort that converted the property into a grand 84-unit senior housing facility.

The Pontchartrain made its triumphant return to New Orleans’ high society in the summer of 2009. Its former guest rooms have been enlarged and configured to serve as both independent and assisted-living apartments for seniors. The Caribbean Room is back, but reserved for residents only, while its other cherished watering hole, the Bayou Bar, is welcoming patrons new and old alike to step back into the days of Frank Sinatra and gas-powered chandeliers.

In addition to a cognac-flavored taste of the past, the Pontchartrain Hotel rehabilitation is delivering significant economic benefit to the revitalization of New Orleans as well. The project is estimated to generate 387 jobs, $1.1 million in state and local taxes and $11.6 million in household and business income. Now, I’ll drink to that.

Erica Stewart is the outreach coordinator for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s community revitalization department.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

 

Written by Erica Stewart

Sometimes -  no, most of the time - I'm very proud to call myself a preservationist. Never more so than when historic preservation is utilized to achieve sustainability on economic, environmental and socio-cultural levels. What do I mean by that? By way of illustration, let me introduce, or re-introduce you, to the recently completed historic rehabilitation of the McCormick-Goodhart Mansion in the DC suburb of Langley Park, Maryland (long-time readers will recall our previous dispatches on the project's progress).

As a DC resident, I know Langley Park mostly for its plethora of strip mall ethnic eateries, thrift stores and harrowing lanes of cross-county commuter traffic that are a pedestrian's nightmare. But thanks to a staff outing to the construction site more than a year ago, I ventured off the highway and into the neighborhoods, where I came to appreciate the incredible diversity of its residents—many of them newly arrived immigrants from Africa, Asia and Latin America—and the importance of the Georgian-Revival mansion to Casa de Maryland's mission of helping them get on their feet.

The $13.8 million rehabilitation by nonprofit organization, Casa de Maryland rescues a badly damaged, formerly vacant historic property into a modernized and bustling Multicultural Center that brings jobs and associated economic activity to low-income census tract. Casa de Maryland used historic tax credits, with the help of tax credit broker, National Trust Community Investment Corporation, to help finance the project, ensuring that the historic character of the 1924 mansion would be preserved. This included painstaking restoration of handcrafted plaster ceiling ornamentation, the lobby's parquet floor and its extensive wood paneling. We know that historic rehab creates more jobs than new construction, especially labor-intensive restoration, so we can be sure this project's materials and its workforce were important contributors to the county's economy—as are the employees that now work in the building, and patronize neighborhood restaurants, copy shops, florists and dry cleaning.

The design by architect Ward Bucher of the Bucher/Borges Group also incorporated green building technologies, thus enhancing the inherent environmental sustainability of recycling an existing building on a viable site that is close to public transportation, schools, jobs and housing.  These technologies include green roofs, geothermal heating and cooling systems, operable storm windows and energy and water conservation measures. Paperwork will be submitted for LEED Gold certification.

Apart from a recent lightening storm that fried some fuses, Mr. Bucher reports that the building's geothermal system—which drills deep into the ground to access cool air, or to dump hot air, is functioning well—maybe even too well. Some of the building's smaller-sized rooms have been a bit chilly. Bucher is also very pleased with the green roof design, which features compartments roughly 2 feet by 3 feet that hold oversized plastic egg crates which in turn hold the plants. This allows for easy access to the rubber roof should a leak be detected.

The social and cultural sustainability of the project is evident in the social services provided by the building's main tenant, Casa de Maryland, and the fact that the converted mansion provides them and other like-minded organizations an attractive, inspiring, and well-equipped headquarters that is situated squarely in the midst of the community that needs their assistance. The mansion was once part of a 565-acre estate; now it is surrounded by garden-style, low-income apartment buildings.

But don't take my word for it. The photos below speak volumes about the triumph achieved by the Casa de Maryland and its project team. Bravo!

Erica Stewart is the outreach coordinator for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s community revitalization department.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

St. Louis Developers Using Tax Credits to Fill the "Hole in the Donut"

Posted on: June 11th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Erica Stewart

The Laurel, as it looks today.

The Laurel, as it looks today.

To read the papers today (yes, thank you, I still do), with their dire news about climbing unemployment, paltry job growth and dry capital markets,  there are plenty of reasons to think an adaptive use project like The Laurel could never happen in today's economy. Yet it is. And given its eye-popping economic impact numbers, St. Louis can't really afford for it not to.

The 660,000 square foot property—formerly known as the Stix Baer and Fuller, then the Grand Leader, and later still, Dillard's—housed a series of department stores from the time it was originally built in 1906. It anchored the east end of Washington Avenue's retail district, which was, for the first several decades of the 20th century, one of the largest and most vibrant retail districts in the country.  But as retail and residences flocked to the suburbs, the property withered along with the rest of downtown.  It was one of the largest vacant properties in the central business district, and given its location next to the St. Louis Convention Center and the Edwards Jones Dome, was a vexing, highly visible, eyesore.

The story of how the old Dillard's building in downtown St. Louis began its $162 million transformation into a 212-suite hotel, 205 residential units and 32,000 square feet of ground-floor retail,  is a story of tax credits—specifically the federal historic tax credit, the Missouri state historic tax credit and the New Markets Tax Credit.

Without going into mind-crushing detail, a quick and dirty on what we're talking about here:

The federal historic tax credit, enacted in 1976, has been instrumental in catalyzing historic real estate development, economic growth, and job creation in all 50 states. (See this recent report by Rutgers University for complete statistical information.)  It operates as a dollar-for-dollar reduction in taxes owed, and can be earned if the rehabilitation of a designated historic building conforms to a set of standards defined by the Secretary of the Interior.  The credit is equal to 20% of the qualifying rehabilitation costs of the project.

The Missouri state tax credit equals 25% of qualifying rehab expenses and has been very effective in attracting private investment in the state's historic resources. The credit was widely regarded as a model policy, until this year when legislators capped the credit, meaning the state Treasury has an annual limit on its payout.  (Shout-out to Missourians: please tell your elected state officials what a poor decision that was. See below for ample evidence on the importance of state historic tax credits.)

The New Market Tax Credit is notoriously complicated, but the upshot is that this 39% tax credit is available to investors who provide capital to Community Development Entities (special entities) that have been allocated New Markets Tax Credits (such as NTCIC, the Trust's for profit subsidiary), which in turn invest that capital in qualifying low income businesses located in low-income census tracts.

Phew!  Are you with me? The larger message to take home here is that if a historic rehabilitation project is considered a qualifying low income business, and that if say, US Bank provides capital to NTCIC for its investment in a historic rehab located in low-income census tract, US Bank receives an additional return on its investment, which spurs it to make a larger initial contribution of funds. The equity boost is a significant additional source of funds for the project, and helps offset the more difficult economics associated with developing historic properties in low-income areas.

... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Little Tokyo Service Center at the Heart of the Transformation of an L.A. Neighborhood

Posted on: May 21st, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Erica Stewart

The Far East Building is again the focal point of the Little Tokyo community following a $4.2 million rehab by LTSC, assisted by a Save America’s Treasures grant. (Photo:  Discover Nikkei)

The Far East Building is again the focal point of the Little Tokyo community following a $4.2 million rehab by LTSC, assisted by a federal Save America’s Treasures grant. (Photo: Discover Nikkei)

My list of reasons for wanting to hop on a cross-country flight to Los Angeles just got longer.

I had the privilege of talking with Erich Nakano of the Little Tokyo Service Center last week about the history and revitalization of a four-block district that is the symbolic heart and soul of the city’s Asian-American heritage. The Little Tokyo Historic District is a National Historic Landmark located tucked between Skid Row, the Arts District, and the Civic Center in downtown L.A. The area became known as Little Tokyo after the arrival of two thousand Japanese immigrants who were recruited from northern California to lay tracks for the Pacific Electric Railway in 1903. The residents were later joined by thousands more from San Francisco following the 1906 earthquake and the racial tensions that ensued. The area has since experience waves of demographic changes, at times drawing a largely African-American population, and later, Latino. Its status as a vibrant, eclectic, and close-knit community has remained constant through its history.

The Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC) is, in many ways, is the common thread woven throughout much of the district’s modern history, promoting the economic revitalization of the district while fighting for the survival of its cultural and historical fabric. Its three thoughtful historic rehabilitation projects have brought affordable housing, community gathering spaces, and the arts to Little Tokyo, including a Save America’s Treasure project, the Far East Building and Café, which was a beacon of hope during the dark days of Japanese-American interment during World War II.

LTSC came on the scene in 1979 to provide essential assistance to the district’s Japanese-speaking senior citizens, including transportation, translation and consumer education services. Its mission expanded greatly in the mid-1980s when the city announced a redevelopment plan that would demolish many of the neighborhood’s city-owned buildings, displacing Asian-American businesses and low-income residents. Led by LTSC, the community rallied against the threat and convinced the city to protect thirteen sites from future development.

Their work was far from over.

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.