Cleveland's historic buildings hang in the balance as politicians weigh new tax cuts

Fairmont Creamery after rehabilitation
Fairmont Creamery after rehabilitation
Fairmont Creamery in the 1930's
Fairmont Creamery in the 1930's

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Advocates are concerned that a tax reform plan, expected to be announced soon in the U.S. House of Representatives, could eliminate the federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentive.

Josh Rosen, a member of Sustainable Community Associates, is part of one group in Cleveland that is sounding the alarm about what the elimination of the credit could mean for Cleveland.

"Anyone who's (reading this) has gone to a movie in a historic theater, spent a night in an historic hotel, had dinner at an historic hotel where the restaurant was located, historic buildings touch almost everyone in Northeast Ohio whether you realize it or not," said Rosen.

Sustainable Community Associates is the group behind the $15 million Fairmont Creamery transformation. His group is currently renovating another historic site, the property on the 1500 block of East 31st known as the Mueller Lofts building.

Rosen described remodeling and renovating historic buildings as a "labor of love."

He told Cleveland 19, "the construction costs of rehabilitating these historic buildings is so high that it makes no…Economics 101 says it does not make sense to work on these buildings."

He went on to say, "bulldozing it would have been more simple, and more lucrative, because of the historic tax credit we were able to look at saving this building, we were able to think about restoring it without those incentives this wouldn't have been possible."

Rosen said the tax credit is a needed incentive to fix up older buildings – especially in a city like Cleveland.

"These buildings have a lot of character that make Cleveland unique. We don't want to look like Atlanta or Charlotte or some new city, we want to look like an older city, that industrial past and we want to honor that," said Rosen. "You're either looking at leaving these big massive buildings vacant and having blight, or as a community, we're actually doing something to them and we're putting them to use and we're creating jobs and we're enlarging the tax base.

Cleveland overall has benefited a lot from the historical tax credit -- just look around the city.

It's a 20 percent credit introduced by the Reagan administration in the 1980's.

Cleveland 19 was told that this is the first time it's in danger of being repealed.

John Leith-Tetrault, the chairman of the Historic Tax Credit Coalition, told Cleveland 19 that he thinks the City of Cleveland has benefited more than any other U.S. city from the tax credit.

"Downtown Cleveland would not have recovered like it has without the historic tax credit," said Leith-Tetrault.

Advocates told Cleveland 19 that they believe the tax credit will be repealed, but, elected Northeast Ohio representatives, like representative Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), said they don't know for sure what will be in the republican tax reform plan.

That plan is expected to be introduced on Wednesday.

"The deal is being negotiated in secret, and we don't know what's on the chopping block, or who's on the chopping block, you asked me about the historic tax credit? No one knows," said Kaptur.

Furthermore, she said she supports the tax credit.

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