Palmetto Preservation Works, Historic Preservation Consulting, Historic Rehabilitation, Historic Investments, Greenville, Greer, Upstate, South Carolina

Preserving our past also helps protect our economy

Posted Monday, May 5, 2003 - 9:58 pm
The Greenville News

By Robert Benedict

This is National Historic Preservation Week, a week that is annually designated to raise awareness of America's historic preservation efforts. It is also an opportunity to encourage all Americans to take an active role in preserving our historic resources for future generations.

Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, recently noted that America loses approximately 250,000 historic places every year. Within the Upstate of South Carolina, historic landmarks are being torn down or lost at an alarming rate.

In recent years, we have lost architecturally and historically significant properties including hospitals, jails, mills and numerous residences. These structures are being torn down, lost to arson or lost because of neglect.

Near downtown Greenville, the Western Corridor Highway Project resulted in the demolition of irreplaceable historic homes within the Briggs and Frank Street neighborhood and the demolition of the historic "Triangle Building" — a structure noted by the state historic preservation office as eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. It is ironic that within this same Southernside neighborhood where a proposed elementary school is eagerly anticipated, schools on Pinckney Street and Asbury Street were demolished in recent decades.

All of these historic structures deserved a better fate. With increased awareness of the benefits of historic preservation, many property owners can take advantage of rehabilitating their historic property and benefit from economic incentives recently made available to South Carolina property owners.

The state passed legislation that went into effect this year creating an income tax credit for the rehabilitation of certified historic properties. The S.C. Historic Rehabilitation Incentives Act (Section 12-6-3535) provides a 25 percent state income tax credit for rehabilitation expenses on certified, owner-occupied residences and a similar 10 percent tax credit for certified, income-producing properties.

The credit may be taken on projects completed after June 30, 2003, with at least $15,000 of eligible, rehabilitation costs. Certified historic, residential structures are those properties listed individually, are eligible for listing or within a district listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The taxpayer may use up to 36 months to complete the rehabilitation work.

The project must be reviewed and approved by the State Historic Preservation Office before work commences. However, this office has made the review process "user-friendly" with concise application and information forms that are easy to follow. The project work must be consistent with the Secretary of the Interior's standards for rehabilitation. The standards are on the National Park Service's Web site at

Rehabilitation expenses that generally are considered to be eligible for the tax credit include preservation and rehabilitation work done to the exterior of a historic structure, structural repairs, restoration of plaster, repairs or rehabilitation to electrical, plumbing and heating/air conditioning systems. Even architectural and engineering expenses may be eligible for the tax credit.

It is a tax incentive that can benefit historic homeowners and investors alike. It provides a significant tax break for the owners of historic properties who may be contemplating a major rehabilitation or prospective buyers of such properties. For years, there has been a federal income tax credit for historic income-properties, but homeowners were unable to benefit from tax incentives with the rehabilitation of their residence.

South Carolina legislators recognized an opportunity to offer a tax incentive as a vehicle for economic development. Nineteen other states have passed similar tax credits, and studies have conclusively revealed increased economic activity directly related to these incentives. It is especially noteworthy that legislators passed the Historic Rehabilitation Incentives Act during a time that our state budget is experiencing increased pressure because of unfavorable economic conditions.

House Speaker David Wilkins of Greenville introduced the bill, and more than 50 local governments and nonprofits voiced their support. The bill passed because legislators recognized the economic benefits of such tax incentives. As stated by Sen. John Courson, R-Richland, "The Historic Rehabilitation Incentives Act is actually a tool that will encourage development and generate income for South Carolina."

Not only are historic properties in the Upstate a key part of our cultural heritage, they are an economic resource as well. A publication by the National Trust for Historic Preservation titled "The Economics of Historic Preservation," by Donovan Rypkema, states that every $1 million spent on rehabilitation in South Carolina creates eight more jobs than $1 million spent manufacturing textiles.

Most Upstate residents agree that historic preservation offers aesthetic, cultural and social benefits to our community. However, it is important to remember that the rehabilitation of historic properties also makes economic sense.

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