Preservation and Public Policy

PAM is actively engaged in promoting preservation as a matter of sound public policy, at all levels of government. We work with local elected officials to support the work of citizen groups and Heritage Preservation Commissions, at the Minnesota Legislature to promote statewide policies and incentives for preservation, and at the Federal level, in support of the extensive system for preservation administered through the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Here are a number of current public policy issues of which you should be aware. Be a preservation advocate by contacting your elected officials! They want to hear from you and to learn about the places and issues that matter to you and your community.

Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credits

The future of the Federal program that offers incentives for historic building rehabilitation, in place since the 1980s, was in doubt as the US House of Representatives and Senate moved forward with tax reform. During the week of December 10, 2017 both houses of Congress agreed on a bill to dramatically rework our nation’s tax code. Thanks to the work of thousands of advocates – hopefully including YOU! – the HistoricTax Credits made it back into the final bill. The bill was passed in the Senate and House and then signed into law by President Trump on Dec. 22, 2017.

Why was retaining the Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credit so important? 

The projects made possible by the Rehabilitation Tax Credit have been vital economic growth engines in Minnesota. Since 2010, when a state tax credit was passed with bipartisan support and signed into law by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, over $2 billion of economic activity has been generated by private-sector rehabilitation of historic buildings in Minnesota. Directly, the tax credits have leveraged over $1.1 billion in construction activity over the past seven years, almost $400 million of which has been paid in middle-class construction wages. Professionals who specialize in this work, including contractors, suppliers, architects, interior designers, consulting historians, and CPAs, would also have their wages cut if the Rehabilitation Tax Credit was eliminated. Since 2002, at least 110 historic buildings have been rehabilitated in Minnesota using the Historic Tax Credit, creating more than 18,000 jobs.

The positive ripple effects of rehabilitation investment are evident in communities all across Minnesota. In Minneapolis’ North Loop neighborhood alone, over a dozen historic buildings have been successfully rehabbed using this tax credit, totaling more than $142 million in construction expenditures. The vitality of this reclaimed historic district has prompted new development, spurring small business growth through new restaurants, bars, breweries, and retail stores, and attracting corporate expansion with tenants such as Amazon, global software company Calabrio, and Arctic Cat.

Duluth and St. Paul have seen similar rates of economic investment in historic buildings, with over $27 million and $200 million of rehabilitation construction expenditures respectively since 2006. Cities outside of the metro benefit from this tax credit, too. Notable projects include:

  • The Faribault Woolen Mill in Faribault, which was in operation from 1865 until 2009 and was brought back to life in 2011 thanks to approximately $1 million in Historic Tax Credits and over $5 million in investment by the new owners, Chuck and Paul Mooty
  • The Second Street Professional Building in downtown Chaska, rehabilitated in 2006
  • Conley-Maass-Downs Building, downtown Rochester, rehabilitated by first-time, local developers to house a restaurant on the ground level and a co-working space on the upper story

More places in Minnesota await the opportunities that home-grown economic development like this would create: the vacant former state hospital complex in Fergus Falls, the Duluth Armory (one of young Bob Dylan’s favorite venues), and the Fort Snelling Upper Post, which has stood idle and deteriorating for over 40 years despite its status as a National Historic Landmark. All of these places – and the people in these communities – would lose out if the Rehabilitation Tax Credit is repealed and the critical economic tools for reclaiming these places are eliminated.

The Rehabilitation Tax Credit is a worthwhile investment that grows our economy, brings jobs back to our local communities, and increases paychecks for our workers. We are relieved that the Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credit was retained in the 2017 tax reform process.

Preservation the Minnesota Bonding Bill:

In 2017, the Minnesota Legislature approved a nearly $1 billion bonding bill that included a number of preservation priority projects, such as Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery in Minneapolis, which is one of our former 10 Most Endangered sites. Review the spreadsheet provided by the Legislative analyst’s office to see if there’s a project in your community – and thank your representatives for their support of preservation!

PAM will again be supporting a bonding bill in 2018, joining with the League of Minnesota Cities and the Building Jobs Coalition to urge passage of a robust bill that prioritizes reinvestment in heritage assets that are important to a large number of Minnesotans. Stay tuned for more details about the projects that may be included, and how you can voice your support to your representatives in the Legislature.