Tax credits available for downtown restorations

Bill Gatlin, center, of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History spoke at the Houston Exchange Club Aug. 16 about historic restoration tax credits. Shown with Gatlin are Exchange Club President Gene Childs, on left, and Exchange Club Vice President Jason Brooks on right. (Photo Floyd Ingram)

Bill Gatlin, center, of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History spoke at the Houston Exchange Club Aug. 16 about historic restoration tax credits. Shown with Gatlin are Exchange Club President Gene Childs, on left, and Exchange Club Vice President Jason Brooks on right. (Photo Floyd Ingram)

HOUSTON – Repairing downtown buildings and homes can be expensive, but tax credits help can make the cost of that business idea or residential renovation affordable.
Speaking to the Houston Exchange Club last week, Bill Gatlin of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, said people don’t renovate a downtown business because they love history, they do it to make money.
“Most people who get involved in the historic renovation of a commercial building do it to get a return on their investment,” said Gatlin. “Often times the expense of renovating an old building is just not worth it without the tax credits offered by the state and federal government.”
And he pointed out all of the area surrounding the Square in downtown Houston and many of the side streets are on a historic list approved by the National Historic Register this summer.
“That was a huge step for Houston and any building or home on that list already qualifies for tax credits,” said Gatlin. “It can be as simple as putting on a new roof at your house or as detailed a renovating a building and restoring the front.”
Gatlin said there are requirements for obtaining those state and federal tax credits.
“We are not in the business of saying no, but we are in the business of helping you get there with us,” he explained. “There are a lot of important reasons a community wants to keep and maintain their historic buildings.”
Property owners on the Houston historic list could be eligible for up to a 25-percent tax credit from the state for historic improvements and up to a 20-percent tax credit from the federal government.
An initial survey was done for Depot, Hamilton, Jackson, Jefferson, Madison, Pittsboro, Pontotoc and Washington streets and Pinson Square and was submitted to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH). Public input and support was sought for the designation in a public meeting held in February.
The nomination came about as part of the construction of a cell tower in downtown Houston this fall.
“We thought this would be an adverse effect on the historic character of the town,” said Gatlin. “Since the tower could not be moved elsewhere, the tower company agreed to ‘mitigate’ the adverse effect by conducting a survey of historic resources and completing a National Register nomination for downtown Houston.”
He said the study and nomination cost the phone company about $5,000.
More than 70 properties have been identified as falling in the area to be included on the National Register.
Gatlin said being placed on the National Register would benefit Houston and he urged people to comment either for or against the designation.
“We think this is a great opportunity for Houston,” said Gatlin. “We will have good documentation of the historic resources and it may create some economic development opportunities.”
The Mississippi Department of Archives and History can be contacted at P.O. Box 571
Jackson, MS 39205-0571 
or by calling
 601-576-6850.
Houston’s listing on the National Historic Register was spearheaded by Historic Hometown Houston.

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