Governor Jack Markell signed into law an extension of the Delaware Historic Preservation Tax Credits Program, which has supported an estimated 2,400 jobs rehabilitating historic buildings across the state since 2001. Originally set to expire on June 30 of this year, the program has been extended for an additional ten years.
"This program has demonstrated a range of benefits over the past decade, but they can be summed up as: protecting and creating jobs while preserving our shared historical heritage," Markell said. "Each year, hundreds of carpenters, plumbers, steelworkers, electricians, painters, and restoration experts will be at work restoring unique historical buildings. They're restoring or improving the character of neighborhoods and making our state even more attractive to new employers."
The program offers state tax credits to property owners for expenses incurred during the rehabilitation of historic buildings, stimulating significant private investment in Delaware communities. A commitment of approximately $35 million in state tax credits during that period has spurred private investment of more than $166 million. Every $5 million in tax credits has translated into 350-400 jobs.
"This tax credit is an important way to help us preserve our heritage," said Senate Majority Whip Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington East), who sponsored the legislation. "We need to do what we can to help protect those structures that are touchstones to our history."
"As someone whose district includes dozens of historic properties, I know how important it is encourage the preservation of these important structures," said Rep. Brad Bennett (D-Dover South) the bill's prime sponsor in the House. "Historic properties are a part of Delaware's living history, and giving those property owners an incentive to rehabilitate those structures rather than demolish them is an important step in preserving our history. By signing this 10-year program extension into law, we are encouraging job growth by increasing rehabilitation projects throughout the state while beautifying our neighborhoods."
"I was especially proud to cosponsor this bipartisan piece of legislation," said State Rep. Don Blakey (R-Camden). "My district includes the home, Spruce Acres, where the tax credit extension was signed into law. This circa 1850 home illustrates how the credit has been an effective tool for preserving our state's cultural legacy and ensuring that Delaware's historic structures remain viable."
The signing ceremony was held at Spruce Acres, owned by Andy and Jennifer Nowak. An excellent example of Greek Revival architecture, the home was built around 1840 by Hunn Jenkins, a Quaker and abolitionist. Witness to weddings, births and countless stories, the home may also have been a stop on the Underground Railroad. Now home to three small businesses, the building was renovated in 2007 at a cost of $224,000, offset by a State Historic Preservation Tax Credit of almost $45,000.
"The reauthorization of the Historic Preservation Tax Credit will result in more historic properties being preserved and more jobs being generated within the State of Delaware," said Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock. "We thank the Governor and the General Assembly for giving us the opportunity to build on a decade of proven success with the program."
State officials also expressed thanks to the organization, Preservation Delaware, for their efforts to help communicate about historic preservation and the program to the citizens of Delaware. The executive director of Preservation Delaware, Terry Graham, reiterated their commitment to raising awareness and understanding of the program.
The impact of Delaware historic preservation tax credits has been felt in communities in every one of Delaware's counties -- the Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program has helped:
* Prevent the destruction of historic buildings that were significant parts of the streetscapes in Milford, Dover, Georgetown, Delaware City and Wilmington
* Restore the Brick Hotel in Georgetown -- Built in 1836, the building served as a hotel until the 1950s when it was converted into a bank. Vacant for several years, it was rehabilitated in 2008 at a cost of $2.4 million, offset by a State Historic Preservation Tax Credit of $478,000. The building is now once again serving a focal point in Georgetown as a restaurant and hotel.
* Rehabilitate 22 historic homes, including an 1874 ship captain's home in Milton and the 1814 home of former William Tharp in Milford, which now houses a local art league, a craft shop, and residential apartments. The Tatnall Houses, located in the Brandywine Village Historic District and constructed between 1770 and 1790. Tradition has it that Generals Washington and Lafayette stopped at Joseph Tatnall's home in the days leading up to the Battle of the Brandywine. The homes were rehabilitated in 2007 at a cost of $4.4 million, offset by a State Historic Preservation Tax Credit of $1.3 million. These solidly built homes now serve as senior citizen housing. Other homes include those of former US Senator's Harry A. Richardson (built 1882) and James Hughes (built 1857) in Dover.
* Transform vacant industrial building into productive commercial use including former Brandywine Power Plant in Wilmington - Built in 1909 by Pierre S. du Pont's Wilmington Light, Power, and Telephone Company, a firm which later merged to become Delmarva Power, the building once housed one of Wilmington's early electric plants until it ceased operations in 1930. Empty for many years, it was rehabilitated in 2006 at a cost of almost $1.4 million, offset by a State Historic Preservation Tax Credit of $268,000. It now houses an office/millwork manufacturing facility
* Capture the spirit of our American cultural heritage - Built in 1929, the structure of the Central Branch YMCA in Wilmington expresses an architectural representation of the ideology of the YMCA (Young Men's Christian Association) during its heyday in the 1920s. Single rooms are still rented to men as they were when the building was first constructed. The original boy's department, now used for childcare, was designed like the deck of a pirate ship and remains largely intact. The YMCA was rehabilitated in 2004 at a cost of nearly $16 million, offset by a State Historic Preservation Tax Credit of $4 million.