Preservation tax credit would create jobs

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin visited historic Clifton Mansion in northeast Baltimore recently to unveil new bipartisan legislation that he and U.S.Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine are cosponsoring to create jobs and strengthen "Main Street" commercial districts in city neighborhoods and small towns across Maryland. In so doing, Mr. Cardin has laid a path for Baltimore and all of Maryland to generate skilled, well-paying jobs by reinvesting in the historic places where people want to live, businesses want to locate, and tourists want to visit.

Senator Cardin's legislation, the Creating American Prosperity through Preservation (CAPP) Act, would expand the already-impressive track record of the federal historic tax credit — a little-known federal program that gets big results. In Maryland in Fiscal 2010, for example, 14 projects used $30 million in federal historic tax credits to create 5,228 jobs and generate $75 million in federal, state and local taxes, more than doubling the government's initial investment. Here in Baltimore, we need to look no further than the Bromo Seltzer Tower, Hippodrome Theater, American Can Company, and Clipper Mill for examples of where the federal tax credit program has helped restore historic places and re-energize entire neighborhoods.

The CAPP Act would make the historic tax credit work better for smaller, Main Street projects that are typically too small to make the credit worthwhile from a cost-benefit perspective. For example, commercial buildings in neighborhoods such as Highlandtown, Station North and the west side of downtown have been vacant for years, unable to attract financing for redevelopment and reuse. CAPP would increase the credit from 20 percent to 30 percent of qualifying project costs, making projects feasible and creating a cascade of positive impacts — tax revenues, construction and permanent jobs, and community benefits that come from bringing vacant buildings back to life.

We commend Senator Cardin for his leadership on this, and are hopeful the CAPP Act will be enacted to help Maryland further capitalize on its wealth of historic assets to create jobs, spur economic development and bolster our communities.

Johns W. Hopkins and Tyler Gearhart, Baltimore

The writers are, respectively, executive director of Baltimore Heritage, Inc. and executive director of Preservation Maryland.

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