NTCIC Anniversary

 

This is the latest in a series of posts celebrating the 10th anniversary of the National Trust Community Investment Corporation (NTCIC) by sharing some of its biggest successes.

Written by Kim Trent

The 500 block of Gay Street, c. 1937.

The 500 block of Gay Street, c. 1937.

In January of 2005, it looked like five historic buildings in the 500 block of Gay Street in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee, would be lost. They would be replaced by a sprawling new multi-screen cinema complex that government and business leaders hoped would be the missing link for downtown Knoxville's rebirth. It seemed many Knoxvillians were ready to sacrifice the buildings for that ever-elusive thing known as "progress." That same month the Knox Heritage Board of Directors gathered and voted to oppose the demolition of the iconic structures, including the S&W Cafeteria Building, the Athletic House Building, the former WROL studios, the Walgreen's Building and the Gaut Ogden Stationers Building.

One phone call transformed that looming battle into a cooperative effort between Knox Heritage and the City of Knoxville. That call between Knox Heritage Board President Finbarr Saunders and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam was the first step in finally pulling the 500 block of Gay Street back from the brink. For more than two decades most of the buildings had stood vacant as multiple redevelopment plans fell through. They dodged bullet after bullet - a Knox County government plan to demolish them for a new downtown justice center and jail; demolition for a City of Knoxville transit center combined with a theater multiplex; and general neglect that resulted in collapsed roofs and crumbling facades.

As Mayor Haslam waited in an airport for a plane that day in January, he and now County Commissioner Saunders agreed to take a second look at the project and see if a compromise could be found. The final agreement they reached allowed 45 days for Knox Heritage to propose an alternative design that would preserve as much of the historic fabric as possible while meeting the downtown redevelopment and budget goals of the city and the needs of theater operator Regal Entertainment Group.

Restored buildings along Gay Street.

Restored buildings along Gay Street.

Knox Heritage convened a task force of volunteers made up of architects, attorneys, developers, city officials and John Leith-Tetrault of the National Trust Community Investment Corporation. The complex challenge of saving the block began with a very simple design idea from theaters of the past.

Knoxville is blessed to have two restored historic theaters in its downtown – The Bijou and The Tennessee - that have national reputations due to their historic character and the caliber of performers who have graced their stages. It’s not unusual to see them written up in the New York Times and other national publications.

The Bijou Theatre opened in 1909 when the performance space was added to the rear of the Lamar House, built in 1817 as a private residence for Thomas Humes. The first floor became the lobby for the theater beyond. Knox Heritage was formed in 1974 to save the Bijou from demolition for a parking lot. The Historic Tennessee Theatre opened in 1928 as a movie theater featuring an elaborate Spanish-Moorish interior. It was constructed at the rear of the 1907 Burwell Building and its impressive lobby flows through the center of that original office building. The Tennessee was completely restored and transformed into a regional performance arts center in 2005 with help from an almost $6 million investment by NTCIC. It was one of the first projects in the country to “twin” the Historic Rehabilitation and New Market Tax Credits.

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Thinking Outside the Box: An Artful Adaptive Use Project in Hudson Valley

Posted on: October 15th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

This is the latest in a series of posts celebrating the 10th anniversary of the National Trust Community Investment Corporation (NTCIC) by sharing some of its biggest successes.

Written by Erica Stewart

The vacant Nabisco box making factory before rehabilitation.

The vacant Nabisco box making factory before rehabilitation.

When then-Dia Art Foundation director Michael Govan first laid eyes on the vacant Nabisco box making factory, he didn’t just see 292,000 square feet of abandoned brick, steel, concrete and glass. Rather, he envisioned a vast exhibit space for Dia’s expansive contemporary art collection—including major works by Andy Warhol, Joseph Beuys, Walter De Maria and Donald Judd —and complemented by the 1920s industrial architecture of the structure. Its large, unfettered rooms, 36,000 square feet of skylights and high ceilings were perfect for a museum that exhibits monumental sculptures and delicate drawings. The clincher was the hardwood maple floors.

That was in 1998, and the Nabisco plant and its 31-acre site was for sale for $2 million. It had been vacant since 1991. The property is located along the Hudson River, a short jump from the Metro North station in Beacon, New York, though there were hardly any reasons for New York City day trippers to make the hour-long trip at that time. Beacon was a gritty, forsaken city, with a reputation (as recently as 1995) for its flophouses, crack dens and brothels—a far cry from the type of place one might expect to tempt an art foundation.

Dia:Beacon after renovation.

Dia:Beacon after renovation.

But Dia officials persisted, and with help from then-Governor George Pataki, they persuaded the owner (a subsidiary of International Paper at that point) to donate the building for free as long as Dia paid for a required $1 million environmental cleanup. A $50 million historic rehabilitation ensued, facilitated by the National Trust Community Investment Corporation (NTCIC) which partnered with Bank of America to purchase the federal historic tax credits generated by the rehab. This generated a significant source of financing, $6.6 million, which would not have been otherwise available to Dia (as nonprofits do not pay taxes). NTCIC formed a specific partnership to enable the transaction. The National Trust was also instrumental in the listing of the property on the National Register of Historic Places—a prerequisite for qualifying for the historic tax credit.

The site’s master plan was designed by California artist Robert Irwin, and retains the original character of the factory while accommodating its 21st century museum function. Irwin also planned the surrounding landscape, including a grid of flowering trees that shade the parking lot, and gardens that change with the season. The interior of the museum is in harmony with the environment as well: there are few lights other than mandatory emergency ones, so the galleries’ closing time changes with the seasons as well: 4:00 p.m. in winter, 6:00 p.m. in summer.

Richard Serra installation at Dia:Beacon. (Photo: Richard Barnes)

Richard Serra installation at Dia:Beacon. (Photo: Richard Barnes)

The result is 240,000 square feet of exhibition space, bathed in beautiful natural light in unadorned space where the intensity of the large installations can be felt. This scale makes Dia:Beacon more than four times the exhibition space of the Whitney Museum of American Art and almost twice the size of the Tate Modern in London. The size has enabled Dia to more than double the number of artists in its collection, and commission works specifically for the Dia:Beacon space.

And like the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain, and MassMoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts, the museum has had a major revitalizing influence on Beacon. In its first year, the museum attracted 145,000 visitors, and has been attributed with triggering approximately $10 million in economic windfall to the city of Beacon and Dutchess County annually.

Dia:Beacon’s presence has had an undeniable catalytic effect: Scenic Hudson, a nonprofit environmental organization and land trust has purchased more than 2,000 acres to create a new development with a hotel, restaurants, public waterfront, a park and a network of hiking trails. A new performing arts center designed by Frank Gehry opened at nearby Bard College. The $132 million Rivers and Estuaries Center on the Hudson, an institute devoted to advanced environmental research, is slated for construction in Beacon. A theater company intends to revive a long-shuttered playhouse. Its Lower Main Street District, listed on the National Register in 1987, features many rehabilitated Italianate-style commercial buildings that now house galleries and high-end retail. One of the historic properties, a former firehouse, is now a cut glass shop also distinguished for its historical significance. The fertile farmland of the surrounding area, coupled with the proximity of the Culinary Institute of America, means a visitor to Dia:Beacon won’t be surviving on art alone, either.

So in this tenth anniversary year for NTCIC, we fondly regard one of our first investments, Dia:Beacon. Despite the 180 degree-evolution in its use, the old Nabisco box factory again represents the marriage of form and function and is driving Beacon’s economic engine, much as the factory did during its industrial heyday.

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.

Durham’s Historic Tobacco Buildings Ignite Bull City’s Growth for the Second Time

Posted on: October 8th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments

 

Written by Erica Stewart

The Lucky Strike smokestack and water tower, added to the campus in 1930, lend the American Tobacco complex a one-of-a-kind distinction. (Photo: Flickr user abbyladybug, via Creative Commons.)

The Lucky Strike smokestack and water tower, added to the campus in 1930, lend the American Tobacco complex a one-of-a-kind distinction. (Photo: Flickr user abbyladybug, via Creative Commons.)

This week’s journey through NTCIC’s ten years of historic tax credit investing runs through the city of Durham, North Carolina, a city that has been dominated by the tobacco industry—either by its boom or its bust—for over 140 years. Although now known as “the City of Medicine,” there is no mistaking Durham’s association with tobacco.Downtown is still dominated physically by the multitude of magnificent brick warehouses constructed during its run as the “Bull City” (stemming from the Durham Bull tobacco manufacturing company).

After a long period of prosperity, many of the properties became vacant or underutilized, victimized by mid-twentieth century suburban population shifts and the decline of the tobacco industry.  No longer driving the city’s growth, the brick buildings actually stymied Durham’s emergence from the economic slump of the latter twentieth century. The properties were so vast in size and number and so poorly cared for, and downtown so bleak that few commercial developers -–and even fewer conventional bankers—trusted their potential.

NTCIC was one of those brave believers, partnering with Bank of America to provide $13 million in tax credit equity to help finance the rehabilitation of the American Tobacco campus into a mix of new uses.  The 13-acre complex, totaling approximately one million square feet, was abandoned at the south end of downtown in 1987. As the former center of Durham’s identity and its primary employer, the fate of the American Tobacco district and the health of downtown Durham were inextricably linked. Today those thick brick walls are humming again, recast as the home to top-notch office space (among them Duke University’s corporate education school, a North Carolina NPR affiliate, advertising firms, software companies and smaller businesses and nonprofits), five restaurants, a YMCA and a 2,800-seat new performing arts center.

Rehabbed American Tobacco storefronts. (Photo: Flickr user abbyladybug, via Creative Commons.)

Rehabbed American Tobacco storefronts. (Photo: Flickr user abbyladybug, via Creative Commons.)

This transformation is the largely thanks to the vision and dogged determination of the Capital Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the owner of the Durham Bulls minor-league franchise which occupies a ballpark immediately adjacent to the complex. CBC acquired the campus in 2002 and, after failing to convince conventional bankers, secured $13 million in equity from NTCIC and $40 million from a community-based lending institution located across the train tracks from the project site. CBC launched the first phase of the project in 2004.

The numbers are staggering: Phase I rehabilitated five of the historic properties into 500,000 square feet of Class A office space, a few restaurants, and a new water feature, the Old Bull River, which courses through the center of the campus. The $85 million Phase II continued the rehabilitation of the remaining historic buildings, including some of the very oldest tobacco warehouses and factories in the United States.  It also created the Old Bull Apartments and a handful of condos.  The $67 million Phase III (new construction only) produced the $44 million Durham Performing Arts Center and will eventually yield 380 residential units, additional commercial office space and 40,000 square feet of retail and restaurants.

Equally impressive is the economic impact of the American Tobacco project. Phase I brought 3,450 jobs to the campus, and Phase II, more than 2,200. Property values are estimated to have risen more than 30% after each phase, increasing city revenues.  The project has had a tremendous catalytic effect as well. Data shows that the pace of downtown development increased substantially following the opening of American Tobacco. For example, during the site’s 17-year period of vacancy (1987-2003), less than one significant development project, on average, was completed downtown each year. In the five years following the completion of Phase I, 16 major projects were completed downtown, averaging more than three per year.

These spin-off projects include Scientific Properties’ Venable Center project, also financed in part by NTCIC, which rehabilitates the former Golden Belt Manufacturing Complex on the eastern side of downtown. This facility was where pouches for Bull Durham loose leaf tobacco were manufactured, and later, paper cartons for cigarettes. The historic complex was abandoned and designated a brownfields site in 2000. Today, thanks in no small part to the towering example of the American Tobacco project, the Venable Center offers 35 artist studios at below-market rents, an art gallery, 37 affordable loft apartments, office space, a live music venue and ground floor retail.

The real bottom line, which shouldn’t be lost in the tally of impressive figures and square footage, is that now downtown Durham is a lively, vibrant, interesting place to be, at all times of day or night. And best of all, the American Tobacco project was able to change people’s assumptions about what they thought downtown to be, what it could be, without allowing its rich architectural heritage and history to go up in smoke.

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.

A Very Happy Anniversary

Posted on: October 1st, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Pat Lally

(Photo couresy of Tara Krebbs, Dudley Ventures, Inc.)

(Photo couresy of Tara Krebbs, Dudley Ventures, Inc.)

When Emily Post penned her first etiquette book in 1922, she offered a guide to appropriate anniversary gifts by year.  This year we’re celebrating the National Trust Community Investment Corporation’s (NTCIC) decade-long effort to reinvest in America’s historic neighborhoods and my work in Congress has been taken to a whole new level as a result.  Since NTCIC was established in 2000 as a for-profit subsidiary of the National Trust, it has brought more than $330 million to the rehabilitation of over 60 commercial buildings nationwide by partnering with developers of historic buildings to invest equity in a rehabilitation project so that it may be receive federal tax credits.  Basically, NTCIC’s leg up “makes the numbers work” for many worthy historic rehabilitation projects that otherwise would not go forward.

These historic rehabilitation projects are the keystones to our country’s heritage – once abandoned structures that used to be lively theaters, bustling department stores, and productive mills -- transformed through NTCIC into 21st Century icons of economic development and job creation by saving our past.

Tin, by the way, is Mrs. Post’s suggestion for a 10th anniversary gift.  I think it’s appropriate that we should mark NTCIC’s ten years with an historic building material used to roof countless numbers of historic buildings throughout the county.  I will send up a tin of cookies this afternoon.

But why is NTCIC’s work so important to the National Trust’s legislative agenda in Congress?

Well, let’s just say that I can go to the Hill and lobby for important historic preservation programs and initiatives all day, but without the practical information, expertise, and industry support that a practitioner such as NTCIC provides, my effectiveness is limited.  Congress moves bills where there are two critical ingredients: 1) information that warrants a federal response to a compelling national need; and 2) vocal advocacy from constituents, business leaders, and industry representatives.  NTCIC provides so much of our public policy efforts with the user-based on-the-ground knowledge and industry advocacy we need to be successful.  Its focus is on projects that have a high economic impact on the surrounding community and its daily collaboration with tax credit financiers, property owners, developers, nonprofit organizations, and local governments bring an enormously important level of influence to the preservation debate at the national level.

Let me put this value into perspective as it related to a top-tier legislative item for the National Trust, federal and state historic tax credits.  NTCIC is the historic tax credit INDUSTRY’S leading advocate for improving and expanding the use of federal and state historic tax credits.  I highlight “industry” because – while the National Trust has been enormously successful in attracting support from the mainstream preservation community represented by groups like our statewide and local preservation partners – it had been difficult to cultivate the necessary industry group around historic tax credit legislation.  That is until NTCIC stepped in with the tax credit contacts, experts, and users to make a difference.  In fact, NTCIC took a fledgling group of tax credit developers we put together around our Community Restoration and Revitalization Act and helped establish the Historic Tax Credit Coalition (HTCC), an expanded group of developers, investors, syndicators, tax accountants, preservation consultants, and lawyers dedicated to amending the federal historic tax credit program.

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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.

Up and Coming in Downcity: Historic Rehabilitation and the Arts Converge in Providence

Posted on: September 28th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Erica Stewart

The third installment in the ongoing series of blog posts on the National Trust Community Investment Corporation and its decade of new markets and historic tax credit investing takes us to Providence, Rhode Island. NTCIC has invested nearly $14 million in two historic real estate projects by nonprofit developer AS220 that created artist live/work space out of abandoned commercial buildings. Not only have these projects created affordable housing and artist exhibit space that reinforces the city’s commitment to being a “Creative Capital,” but they return vacant historic properties to use, for the economic and aesthetic benefit of the city and its residents.

If you’ve spent any time in downtown Providence as an area resident or visitor, you know there’s much more to the Rhode Island capital than its former mayor whose federal racketeering charge landed him in federal prison for four years. In fact, a visit to Providence, especially its Downcity district, reveals why it is the envy of many big cities, with its nucleus of rehabbed historic commercial buildings, an inviting river front (that hosts the exquisite “WaterFire” performance) and interesting theaters, restaurants and retail. Providence also boasts the largest number of working artists in the country, reflected in its colorful mix of galleries, theaters and museums.

And thanks to the vision and commitment of AS220, a number of these artists now enjoy two economical and inspirational places to live, work and collaborate: the newly rehabbed Mercantile Building and The Dreyfus—both in the heart of downtown Providence’s high-rent district.

The Dreyfus

The Dreyfus interior before restoration.

The Dreyfus interior before restoration.

The Dreyfus was built in the late 1890s as a small hotel, frequented mostly by salesmen arriving at the nearby train station in downtown Providence. In later years, its French restaurant became a favorite for theater goers as the area became known as the city’s theater district (the basement speakeasy was quite popular for different reasons during Prohibition). The property was enlarged in 1917, the hotel closed in the 60s, and then Johnson & Wales operated it as a dormitory from 1975 to 1999. The Dreyfus remained vacant for several years after that while advocates considered an appropriate reuse. In 2005, it was acquired by the well-respected arts nonprofit organization AS220, whose $7.5 million historic rehabilitation created 14 artists’ lofts, 10 work studios, and ground-floor restaurant and retail space. Three of the lofts are market-rate, and the rest of the space is available below-market to facilitate AS220’s goal of building community in downtown Providence through affordable space for artists to live, work, and operate businesses.

The Dreyfus interior after restoration.

The Dreyfus interior after restoration.

The project team was delighted to find much of the hotel’s classic interior covered up, but largely intact. The highly decorative wood paneling and coffered ceilings in the ground floor bar and dining room are considered to be among the finest intact historic commercial interiors in Providence. The magnificent terracotta that adorns the exterior of the building, along with the stunning stained glass windows on the first floor, was painstakingly restored. The loft apartments and studio spaces boast original wood floors, stairway balustrades, moldings and wainscoting.

The Dreyfus re-opened in May 2007, featuring a new restaurant that highlights local ingredients, AS220’s printmaking shop, and studios and lofts for an eclectic mix of artists. The first tenants included painters, photographers, a playwright, a printer, a DJ, a jeweler, a pastry-artist and even a hot-air-balloon maker. Despite their diverse callings in life, you can be sure after one look at their exquisitely-renovated homes, they all share a passion for historic preservation.

Mercantile Building

The Merchantile Building.

The Merchantile Building.

The Mercantile Building, immediately next door to the Dreyfus, follows in a very similar vein. AS220 began its $16.9 million rehabilitation in 2008 to create retail and office space, a restaurant, 22 housing units, and artists’ studios in the 40,000 square-foot, former commercial building. The rehab, in addition to retaining important historic details, is also incorporating many sustainable design elements, including: natural daylighting, low-consumption plumbing fixtures, a reflective roof membrane and recycled building materials.

Tenants will include the Fab Lab, a computer fabrication and technology collaboration between AS220 and MIT, a public silkscreen shop and other retail spaces that provide opportunities to create, display and sell artwork. College Visions, a program that helps disadvantaged youths apply to college, is also set to occupy space. Two longtime Mercantile tenants - a locksmith and a bar - will be continuing their occupancy in the building, in new and very improved spaces. The residences are scheduled to open October 1.

A significant impact of this project, in addition to the estimated 150 construction jobs and 129 permanent jobs generated by the rehab, is its contribution to the revitalization of Martha Street, which abuts the building on one side. Once regarded a back alley fit only for the stable found there, it is being transformed into a vibrant pedestrian way, greatly enhancing neighborhood safety and vitality.

The resulting body of work is an artful illustration of how artistic creativity, innovation and historic preservation can combine to effect the revitalization of a community without losing its soul in the process.

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.