Historic tax credits: economic opportunity for R.I.

Guest Column:
Valerie Talmage and Scott Wolf
As the 2013 legislative session heads toward its closing date, Rhode Island has a great economic opportunity within its grasp. Passage of a carefully constructed historic-tax-credit program would kick-start jobs, revitalize neighborhood economies and help get us back in business. More

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OP-ED / LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Historic tax credits: economic opportunity for R.I.

Guest Column:
Valerie Talmage and Scott Wolf
Posted 5/20/13

As the 2013 legislative session heads toward its closing date, Rhode Island has a great economic opportunity within its grasp. Passage of a carefully constructed historic-tax-credit program would kick-start jobs, revitalize neighborhood economies and help get us back in business.

Big promises? Not at all.

Past experience shows how effective historic tax credits can be.

In cities and towns from one end of the state to the other, old, disused buildings have been brought back to vibrant life. They’ve been turned into spaces for offices, shops and services, affordable- and market-rate housing, and are back on local tax-paying rolls. Brand-new life has been breathed into dead factory complexes all across the state.

All thanks to the power of historic tax credits.

We should urge our legislators to re-energize this economic power in 2013. And we should insist that they design a historic-tax program not just for 2013, but for the years ahead.

Rhode Island needs a program that spreads the economic power wisely, so we can address the state’s full range of opportunities: commercial-building restoration; market-rate and affordable housing. And they must impose per-project caps to keep all the tax credits from disappearing into only a few large projects.

The list of successful projects in Rhode Island under the 2002-2008 historic-tax-credit program is impressive. Projects big and small have added immeasurably to the quality of life in our state.

Rising Sun Mills in Providence stands proudly as one of the first large mixed-use mill rehabs in Rhode Island. It is an excellent example of how the renovation of blighted historic sites can bring new life to a community, in this case with 135 residential units and eight retail/office spaces, including a supermarket and other services.

On the waterfront in Newport, an award-winning restoration put the historic Aquidneck Mill back into productive use. The granite textile-mill building now houses the International Yacht Restoration School offices and library and offers 15,000 square feet of commercial office space dedicated to the marine trades. A landmark for visitors making their way along Thames Street, the restoration adds to the ambiance that makes Newport a prime destination.

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