As regular as clockwork -and the legislative session- comes the opportunity to share the story of why commercial historic tax credits are something that has made Louisiana stronger and our communities richer. Each spring we return to Baton Rouge to defend or extend these credits, a little bit of risk abatement that have made remarkable differences in cities from Monroe and Shreveport to New Orleans and Baton Rouge. In a state divided by geography, religion, football team affiliation and political party, this historic tax credit is one of the few economic-development, historic-preservation, urban-renewal programs that has both brought the state’s factions together and done what it has promised (and more).
When the credit was first introduced in the mid-2000s, it was envisioned as a way to
remove a small piece of the risk inherent in rehabbing troubled and often, blighted, buildings. These were often buildings in the urban core reeling from decades of neglect, that were either off the tax rolls or nearly so, creating no jobs and no opportunities, blighted and derelict. The old Arlington Hotel on Cotton Street in downtown Shreveport is one, and so is the Uneeda Biscuit building on Milam. Several years ago, the old Sears building on Texas Street was in the same category. It was a bricked-up fortress of a building taking up a third of a city block on the prime thoroughfare of downtown. It was empty, sketchy, and altogether foreboding. A few years earlier, two other buildings nearby, the one that now houses artspace in the 700 block of Texas and the Robinson Film Center building in the 600 block of Texas were equally unproductive, vacant and sad. All have been rehabbed and brought back to vibrant life. These projects were not done because of the tax credits, the rehabs cost far more than the tax credits returned… but the credits did help abate a portion of the sizeable risk. Important, yes, but even more important is that over the years the credits have created a strong catalytic effect in the places where they have been used. In just the 600 and 700 blocks of Texas in downtown Shreveport in the last 15 years we have seen $40 million in investment. Seven of the buildings in those two blocks were approved for tax credits, but 17 buildings have been completely or substantially improved. Those ten additional buildings that did not apply for or get credits were still made more attractive as investments because of those buildings that did. That’s major stuff, and we’re seeing it around the state. This year, Representative Jim Morris of Oil City is one of the legislators pushing a house bill (HB83) to extend the historic credits until 2026. We appreciate his- and our other supporting legislators’- efforts. Because of their work, buildings like the Arlington Hotel, the old Andress Ford building, the Uneeda Biscuit, 401 Spring, 509 Market (The Standard), Ridgeway Square (719 Marshall), Hutchinson Building and others will have productive futures. They will return to the tax rolls and create jobs, opportunities and excitement, joining buildings such as Ogilvie Hardware, United Jewelers, Lee Hardware, Red River Bank, 601 Spring and the many others that are being improved without the help of credits. Huge strides have been made, but our challenges are not over until the last building is loved and improved. Please let your legislators know that you appreciate their efforts to save our historic structures and in doing so, improve our future.
ORIGINAL STORY & Text of HB 83/ SB 222
Once again, the Louisiana Legislature will be taking up the issue of commercial Historic Tax Credits. Two bills have been filed, HB 83 by Representative Jimmy Harris and SB 222 by Senator Neil Riser. (See HB 83 below, both bills are the same).
What Rep. Harris and Senator Riser seek to do is extend the very helpful historic tax credits until January 1, 2026. These credits apply only to a certain historic properties in state and provide a small bit of risk abatement in rehab projects. The credits have proved invaluable in downtown revitalization and historic preservation projects from Shreveport and Monroe to New Orleans and Baton Rouge and most larger towns and cities in between. Rep. Jim Morris of Oil City is a co-sponsor of HB83, and local legislators have long seen the importance of the continuation of the credits; we appreciate their ongoing support. Please let them know that you support the continuation of the credit, too.
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