I was just watching ol' Brenda talking about the Edgewater with Ledell Zellers and Peter Ostlind, both members of the Mansion Hill Steering Committee and both outspoken opponents of the Edgewater renovation.
An interesting point made about 15 minutes into the discussion: Does the Edgewater project comply with state standards for historic preservation?
The Plan Commission, which approved the project, apparently asked the state's advice in the matter. The state replied, noting that the radical changes proposed in the development would make it difficult to classify the project as historic preservation. This is important, because, as Brenda notes, if Hammes' efforts were considered "historic preservation," they could qualify for special tax credits, which might then lift some of the financial burden off the city, who is now being asked to help finance the project through Tax Incremental Financing (TIF).
The Federal Historic Preservation Credit refunds owners of "income-producing" historic sites up to 20 percent of the costs of renovation through a discount on their federal income taxes. In addition, the Wisconsin Supplemental Historic Preservation Credit offers a 5 percent reduction in state income taxes for owners. Out of a $100 million renovation, those tax breaks could add up to some serious change.
The problem is, of course, that the project probably wouldn't cost $100 million if historic preservation were the ultimate goal. Pouring that kind of dough into a property that is only valued at several million dollars has got nothing to do with preserving. It's all about adding. The standards for preservation do not offer credits for additions that change the historic character of the building, or have nothing to do with the original site.
Claim the credit for only eligible expenses. The cost of all work on the historic buildings, inside and out, is eligible for the credit. The cost of site work, such as landscaping or paving, and the cost of work on non-historic additions are not eligible expenses.
So it doesn't look like historic tax credits are going to be in the cards for most of the project. But could Hammes still ask for credits for the work done to simply renovate the original building? If the base of structure maintains its historic character, why not? Putting the seats on top of the Green Monster at Fenway didn't make the rest of the park any less historic, right?
But about the money that is being requested...There is a Council meeting about the TIF money for the project. It is at 5 p.m. tonight in Room 260 of the Madison Municipal Building. I will either be there or catch some of it on TV.