Birmingham, Mobile landmark renovations among those receiving Alabama historic tax credits

Birmingham, Mobile landmark renovations among those receiving Alabama historic tax credits
Major renovation projects, like the $30 million rehab of the former Merchants Plaza in Mobile, were among those receive state historic tax credits. (Mike Kittrell / Alabama NewsCenter)

The Alabama Historical Commission announced $20 million in tax credits last week that will be used to help renovate 12 structures across the state.

Previous tax credits helped finance more than 50 redevelopment projects, including several multimillion-dollar ones in Birmingham like the Lyric Theatre, the Redmont Hotel and the Pizitz.

To qualify for the credits, properties must be at least 60 years old and have historical significance.

A historical commission committee decided which projects would receive the merit-based awards this year. In past years, the commission awarded credits on a first-come, first-served basis.

The former Protective Life Building, also known as the Commerce Center, was among the projects receiving Alabama historic tax credits this year. (Michael Tomberlin / Alabama NewsCenter)

Another change this year is at least 40 percent of tax credits went to projects in rural counties.

Birmingham received the lion’s share of allocations in 2018, with $6.8 million going to three projects.

In the Magic City, $5 million in tax credits will help the group that renovated the Redmont transform the Protective Life Building (2027 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd.) into a 96-room hotel.

REV Birmingham CEO David Fleming said tax credits continue to be an essential tool for stimulating local economies.

“The impact of historic tax credits in downtown Birmingham is undeniable. From the Elyton Hotel and Thomas Jefferson Tower to the Pizitz and Lyric Theatre, the incentive has enabled millions of dollars of investment in structures that give our city its unique character,” Fleming said. “The demand for these projects is demonstrated by the number of applicants this year. These credits return great value to the state.”

Mobile was also well-represented in this year’s tax credits, receiving more than $5 million for three projects.

Most of those credits will go toward renovating the Merchants National Bank building (104 St. Francis St.). When finished, the building will house 84 loft apartments as well as commercial, retail and restaurant space.

“Downtown Mobile projects like the Merchants National Bank building are great examples of the multiplying return on investment made possible by the state historic tax credit,” said Patty M. Howell, director of regional affairs for the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce. “In addition to saving a beautiful old building that would otherwise crumble, these projects allow properties to again generate positive tax revenues.”

Projects approved for tax credits in 2018 include:

  • Protective Life Building/Commerce Center (2027 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. in Birmingham), $5 million
  • Merchants National Bank (104 St. Francis St. in Mobile), $5 million
  • Family Service Laundry Building (2200 Magnolia Ave. S. in Birmingham,) $1.6 million
  • Martin Building (2308 Fourth Ave. S. in Birmingham), $182,000
  • Kennedy-Foster House (1842 25th Ave. in Tuscaloosa), $62,000
  • Foote-Heisterhagen House (2160 Old Shell Road in Mobile), $50,000
  • Lyons Building (111 Dauphin St. in Mobile), $37,500

The largest rural project approved for tax credits was the $5 million awarded toward renovating of the Pratt Continental Gin in Prattville.

Other rural projects approved for tax credits include:

  • Howell School (408 E. Newton St. in Dothan), $1.5 million
  • James Hotel (1200 Water Ave. in Selma), $1 million
  • Fain Theatre (101 E. Bridge St. in Wetumpka), $221,000
  • Womack’s Hardware (107 N. Mount Pleasant Ave. in Monroeville), $147,000

The Alabama Legislature capped the amount of tax credits awarded in 2018 at $20 million. Fleming recommended the state re-evaluate that number in the future to spur even more investment.

An additional 14 projects totaling more than $16 million in tax credit requests sit on a waiting list for consideration in 2019.

“Alabama’s 2018 tax credit is now capped at $20 million to be spread across the state. This leaves many good impactful projects waiting,” Fleming said. “Imagine the progress in historic areas across Alabama if the cap were raised. It is worth considering.”

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