R.I. Historic Tax Credit program receives $20M in state budget, after going years without

DEVELOPER LARRY SILVERSTEIN, shown here in 2017, used state and federal historic tax credits, as well as other financing tools, to convert the Pontiac Mills in Warwick to retail and apartments. / PBN FILE PHOTO/ MICHAEL SALERNO

PROVIDENCE After years of going without replenishment, the Rhode Island Historic Tax Credit program has received $20 million in new funds in the state’s fiscal 2022 budget.

The program provides tax credits for historical renovation projects, and the lack of dedicated funding in previous state budgets had alarmed preservationists, who say it is one of the best ways to enable developers to finance expensive mill or building renovations.

The $13.1 billion fiscal 2022 budget took effect July 1.

Recent projects that have used state historic tax credits include the Lyman Mill in North Providence, which created 109 apartments, and the Pontiac Mills in Warwick, which turned a former industrial mill into loft-style apartments and shops.

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The $20 million is the first new funding for the program since 2013, according to Jeffrey Emedy, the interim executive director and deputy director of the R.I. Historic Preservation & Heritage Commission.

“It’s a great program for bringing back blighted properties in the communities,” he said.

The funding was a welcome surprise to him after so many years. The terms of the program cap the awards per project at $5 million, but in recent years few projects have received that maximum.

The most recent award came in February 2020, when the state awarded $2.1 million to a planned renovation of the Studley Building on Weybosset Street in downtown Providence. The office and retail building will be converted to apartments over retail.

The R.I. Division of Taxation administers the program, including the award of funds. The Heritage commission oversees the development plans for the projects.

Given $20 million in fresh funds, at least some of the projects in the cue should be able to advance, Emedy said. He wasn’t sure how many projects were waiting for tax credits, but expected it was 20 or more.

“We know we’re going to get at least four projects out of it,” he said. “Depending on which projects are next on the list.”

Mary MacDonald is a staff writer for the PBN. Contact her at macdonald@pbn.com.

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