Real Estate

 

Written by Robert Verrier, FAIA, NCARB

For more than 30 years, historic preservation tax incentives have been helping architects, builders, and private citizens transform historic buildings for new uses, preserving architectural heritage, and benefiting communities all over the country.  I should know, because using tax credit incentives has been key to my business for just as many years, allowing me and one of my partners Mike Binette to save clients money while restoring more than 150 historic commercial,  industrial, and educational structures -- many of which can be found on the National Register of Historic Places.

We are proud of what we’ve achieved in and around Boston -- an American city rich in history and beautiful old buildings -- but we’re also excited about how these incentives have helped Boston and cities like it all over the country.


Bourne Mill, one of America's oldest cotton gins, in Tiverton, Rhode Island.

The recent debate over historic preservation tax incentives is long on political orthodoxy but short on common sense. The benefits of these tax credits are indisputable. By redeveloping historic buildings, tax credits save our architectural heritage and spur new private investment, create construction jobs, and set the stage for new economic activities, such as tourism.

There’s nothing like a broken window to scare off businesses. Any savvy investor will agree that commercial activity gets a bump when abandoned buildings are brought back to life, or derelict properties are restored to their former grandeur. 

But there’s much more. Many historic buildings serve as the visual gateway to entire towns and neighborhoods. They anchor their communities, and often had a central role in making them happen. Examples are everywhere -- churches, town halls, first settler homesteads, factories, schools, mills, lighthouses, and office and institutional buildings. Our architecture firm has spent four decades restoring and adapting old mills and other historic structures throughout New England and along the East Coast -- each of which has precipitated in some way the rebirth and growth of the community.


St. Aidan's Catholic Church in Brookline, Massachusetts, where John F. Kennedy was baptized.

Why does this matter? First, these landmarks are part of the fabric and collective memory of their communities. Generations of families made their living inside those factories, connecting the old stone walls with their family history. They root us to the place.

More so, these old buildings have great bones and can reinvigorate their neighborhoods once again. Many adapted mills have taken on new lives, such as commercial, hospitality, community centers and a wide array of residential type uses. In this way, these historic structures have brought their towns and neighborhoods back to life.

Preservation is also the greenest thing we can do. For example, in Dorchester, Mass., the 1765 Baker Chocolate Factory grew to employ hundreds. After shuttering in 1969, it sat mute and untended until its conversion to a community of apartments, assisted living, and more. The work took decades to complete and recycled tons of brick, granite block and many hundreds of massive wood beams and deck.

Today, Dorchester Lower Mills not only has hundreds of new residents, it has become a vibrant downtown with cafés, boutiques, and a bustling grocery store. People visit for fun, ambiance -- and history. In this way, historic tax credits create a valuable commodity: hope.


Baker Chocolate Factory (side view) in Dorchester, Massachusetts.

Proof of old and historic buildings' attraction and economic value is everywhere. And many of our friends and clients -- mayors, real estate developers, bankers, and residents -- will vouch that the same results never would have been accomplished without historic federal and state tax credits.

Our country’s history deserves better than a wrecking ball. If you believe in America’s past -- and our chances for a better collective future -- historic tax credits are something you can and must believe in, too.

Robert Verrier, FAIA, NCARB and Michael Binette, AIA, NCARB, are partners at The Architectural Team, Inc., a Boston-based architecture firm specializing in master planning, hospitality, mixed-use, multi-family housing, and historic preservation and adaptive reuse.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is committed to raising awareness of the importance of the historic tax credit and advocating for a few strategic improvements that would expand its already impressive track record of saving places, creating jobs and revitalizing communities. You can help! Visit SaveHistoricCredit.org.

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Historic Real Estate: Income Properties Edition

Posted on: September 4th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 3 Comments

 

Main Street Storefront and Loft -- Council Grove, Kansas

This two-story mixed-use brick Italianate is situated in the heart of the Flint Hills region of Kansas. Certified in 2010 as part of a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, this commercial building boasts original pressed tin ceilings both upstairs and downstairs.

The first floor offers a large gallery main room, office, catering kitchen, and garage. The loft apartment on the second floor has maple floors and a street-level entrance. Early in its history, this 1887 building was a harness shop. In recent decades it has served as an office complex, seminar center, cafe, gift and antique shop. Price tag: $204,000

Bungalows 313 -- Sonoma, California

Originally known as the Lombardo Hotel Annex in the early 20th century, Bungalows 313 is a living piece of Sonoma history. This secluded compound includes the original 1906 stone residence and additional duplex and cottage structures set on over a third of an acre of beautiful mature gardens. The compound is composed of six distinctive bungalows centered around an inviting, lush courtyard, each with a private patio or garden, and all within steps of the historic Sonoma Plaza. Price tag: $2,950,000

307 James Brown Boulevard -- Augusta, Georgia

307 James Brown Boulevard is a Second Empire-style commercial townhouse built c. 1884. The interior is suited for commercial use and/or single or multiple residential units. The building features three and a half stories with approximately 5,000 square feet. The property is just a block away from Augusta's main street in the heart of the central business district. Price tag: $59,900

To see more historic listings across the country, visit Historic Properties for Sale.

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.

Historic Real Estate: King of the Castle Edition

Posted on: April 20th, 2012 by David Garber

 

Ever dreamed of living in your own castle? With this Tudor Revival home on the market in Denver, that dream could become reality. That is, if you can cough up the $3,750,000 asking price. The home -- more formally known as The Richthofen Castle -- was completed in 1887 by the uncle and godfather of the WWI Prussian flying ace, Manfred von Richthofen (AKA The Red Baron).

A native of Prussia, original owner Baron Walter Von Richthofen modeled the castle after his ancestral home. He purchased 320 rural acres which he named "Montclair" (now home to the Denver neighborhood of Montclair), and had plans to develop his land into a health and recreational resort -- but ended up parceling it out for development.

Some details to note are the coat of arms on the tower above the main entrance, and the sandstone bust of former German King Frederick Barbarossa on the northeast corner of the home.

The house consists of 35 rooms, including a drawing room, library, music alcove, servant's quarters, butler's pantry, billiards room, "Red Baron" bar (previously the coal room), eight bedrooms, and seven bathrooms, all fitted out with details like handcrafted woodwork, leaded glass, and hand-tooled leather wallpaper with gold inlays. ... 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.

Historic Real Estate: Victorian Details Edition

Posted on: March 16th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Pequot Colony Cottage - New London, Connecticut

Built in 1892, this Pequot Colony home is minutes from the beach. Oh, you wanted more details? The house boasts stained glass, marble and slate mantels, antique lighting, a built-in china hutch, main floor laundry, and a butler’s pantry with sink. Pricetag: $410,000 ... 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.

Historic Real Estate: Distiller, Druggist, & Confectioner Edition

Posted on: January 20th, 2012 by David Garber

 


Classic New England. (Photo: National Trust for Historic Preservation)

64 Liberty Street - Newburyport, Massachusetts

Originally only four rooms with a center chimney and an asymmetrical facade, this home was expanded over time by its original chain of owners: a shipwright (1755), a distiller (1784), a druggist (1797), and a confectioner (1804).


The original kitchen is now the dining room. (Photo: National Trust for Historic Preservation)

A massive eight foot wide working fireplace with two bread ovens, brick hearth and raised panels are the main feature of the original kitchen, now the dining room.  Don't worry, a high-end chefs kitchen (stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, the works) is right next door.


Huge master bedroom with fireplace? Yes, please. (Photo: National Trust for Historic Preservation)

The second floor features two generous bedrooms, each with their own fireplace. A common bathroom is fitted out with radiant heat floors, an Italian limestone double vanity, and a marble-walled rain shower.

David Garber is the blog editor at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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.

Historic Properties for Sale: $1 School Edition

Posted on: January 6th, 2012 by David Garber 3 Comments

 

Old Lincoln School - Rock Island, Illinois

This city-owned landmark was built in 1894 and is for sale to a qualified developer for redevelopment as mixed-use commercial or residential space. It was listed as one of the 10 most endangered properties in Illinois in 2005. Best part? Pricetag: $1.

Parker-Gray School - Alexandria, Virginia

Located just steps from Old Town Alexandria and the Braddock Road metro station, this 1944 structure needs some TLC to bring it back to its former glory.  Originally constructed as a nursery school for African-American children during WWII, the building became the William Thomas American Legion Post #129, which continued to serve the local African-American community through the 20th century. Pricetag: $675,000.

Barnett Hospital and Nursing School - Huntington, West Virginia

The historic Barnett Hospital and Nursing School is a three story frame and brick veneer building is zoned for residential and/or commercial development. Parking is available on site. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009 and is eligible for West Virginia and Federal Historic Preservation Tax Credits. The building is the only known Black Hospital founded, owned, and administer by a single African-American, Dr. C. C. Barnett, still standing. Dr. Barnett was a first cousin of Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History. Pricetag: $500,000.

David Garber is the blog editor at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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.