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New inventory could bring tax credits to more buildings

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The former Hurdle Hardware building on Water Street, shown Monday, is one of 15-30 buildings that could be added to Elizabeth City's register of historic properties should City Council authorize the funding of a new inventory of those properties.

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Elizabeth City officials hope to update the city’s inventory of historic buildings, potentially opening up dozens of properties to tax incentives for redevelopment.

City Manager Rich Olson said Monday he will ask City Council to fund a new survey of the city’s inventory of historic buildings. The city’s current inventory of historic buildings dates back to 1977, he reported, and doesn’t include properties that may now be considered historic.

Updating the inventory also has some urgency, according to both Olson and Community Development Director Matt Schelly. The state’s historic tax credits are expiring at the end of 2019. Projects that aren’t underway by then might not qualify for the state credits. While they might still get federal historic tax credits, Schelly said that state-level credits could reduce an eligible project’s redevelopment costs by 20 to 30 percent.

Olson and Schelly also explained that, despite the credits not expiring until the end of 2019, there’s not much time to complete the inventory.

It will take six to nine months to survey the city’s historic properties and get the approved list to historic preservation officials. That would leave a small window for developers to qualify their projects for state credits before they expire, both Olson and Schelly explained.

Schelly said the new survey could add 15 to 30 buildings to the city’s historic register, depending not only on their age, but historic character. He said the city’s current inventory only considers if buildings were historic prior to 1927. The survey could add buildings considered historic from 1927 to 1960, he said.

One property that could be affected by the updated register is the Hurdle Hardware building, Olson said.

That’s the building on Water Street where Dean Schaan and other investors are looking to remove the building’s non-historic third floor and redevelop it into what they’re calling the Seven Sounds microbrewery.

Olson and Schelly said they don’t know how far a long a project would need to be to qualify for the state credits before they expire, referring that question to the State Historic Preservation Office.

To survey the city’s historic properties, Olson said he will ask City Council to hire a consultant at a cost of up to $25,000. Due to time limits, Olson said he will propose the city fund that expense entirely out of its tourism dollars, rather than seek a grant to offset costs.

Though acknowledging that’s a significant expense, Olson said projects qualifying for historic tax credits could help spur major new investment in downtown Elizabeth City.

Schelly also noted the consultant’s work will require reviewing buildings already considered historic, in order to ensure they still meet that standard. If such buildings aren’t kept in good repair, or if they’re modified with modern-looking architecture, they can lose historic status.

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