Over 3 Billion Reasons To Preserve

March 1, 2007
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Historic preservation not only preserves buildings, but also jobs and a community’s economy.

And historic preservation doesn’t just preserve, either. Preservation also adds jobs and advances a local economy.

Those claims come from the Michigan Historic Preservation Network, a nonprofit group dedicated to preserving architecture throughout the state from its Lansing office.

MHPN recently analyzed the fiscal impact preservation has had on the state for the past 35 years. The analysis, entitled “Investing in Michigan’s Future: The Economic Benefits of Historic Preservation,” reported that more than $819 million was invested in state and federal tax credit projects in Michigan from 1971 to 2001, and those investments created 22,250 jobs and had a total statewide economic impact of $1.7 billion over those years.

But as MHPN pointed out in its study, those figures were just a very talented warm-up act to the headline performer that has been on the state’s stage the past five years. Just since 2001, private developers have invested $902 million in historic renovation projects that have created more than 22,000 jobs and pumped $1.93 billion into economies across Michigan.

“That’s nearly two billion dollars invested in just five years, far surpassing the cumulative investments of the past 30 years,” read the report.

“What’s more, assuming the Michigan Treasury processed all the credits that qualified in the 2001-2005 period, Michigan’s economy benefited from an additional $11.43 in economic impacts for every $1 of credit issued.”

Those tax-credit-qualifying historic renovations ranged from very large, multi-building projects such as the American Seating Park on the city’s near West Side to much smaller, single-building rehabilitations such as the Ebling Building in the Fairmount Square Historic District.

It took slightly more than $58 million worth of investment to convert three under-utilized American Seating buildings into residences and commercial space. Add to that investment an indirect economic impact figure of $66 million and the project has had a total impact of $124 million for the city.

Michigan’s State Historic Preservation Office credited American Seating Park, at 801 Broadway Ave. NW, with creating 1,434 jobs.

David and Barbara Huyser didn’t invest that much money in that much square footage, but the couple has renovated at least eight houses and two commercial buildings on the city’s southeast side on a one-by-one basis over a period of years.

One of their most recent renovations involved turning a former blacksmith shop at the corner of Diamond Avenue and Virginia Street into a viable building with commercial space on the ground floor and apartments on the second level. Before the Huysers stepped in, the roof was about to cave in and the city was looking to demolish the Ebling Building. Their work earned the couple a historic preservation award from the state.

“It’s gorgeous. Without the Huysers, we would have had a vacant lot. We now have a tax-paying property,” said Rebecca Smith-Hoffman, co-owner of Past Perfect Inc., a local firm that helps developers file for federal and state historic tax credits.

A year earlier, Pioneer Construction Co. won the same award as the Huysers for its work on the American Seating Park complex.

MHPN reported that $282,500 of additional investment is leveraged, along with another $179,575 in household income and six new jobs, for every $250,000 of federal and state tax credits awarded to private developers for historic renovation projects.

Since 1971, developers have invested $1.7 billion statewide in these projects, which have resulted in a $3.6 billion boost to Michigan’s economy and more than 42,000 new jobs. The full report is available online at mhpn.org.     CQX

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