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Seminar offers tax credit tips

052219Reid-Thomas

Reid Thomas, a restoration specialist with the state Historic Preservation Office, speaks Tuesday during the historic tax credit seminar at the Booker T. Theater.

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BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff Writer

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Doug Starr remembers the heyday of a downtown Rocky Mount teaming with cars, people and stores.

"I worked for Planters National Bank," Starr recalled on Tuesday. "And I could go out my front door of that building right over there that says 'PNC.' And I thought I had 10 places I could have lunch and walk up and down Main Street and do all my shopping."

Starr was referring to his having been employed in what today is the large PNC building just on the west side of the railroad tracks.

Starr has been in the city since 1969 and he is a retiree who owns real estate. He was one of a small group of local residents who attended a historic preservation and revitalization seminar Tuesday at the Booker T. Theater.

"I wanted to educate myself on the tax credits and the ability to use it to renovate property, both here and out of town," he said.

Rocky Mount municipal officials, led in part by new city Business and Downtown Development Coordinator David Wise, apparently want to re-generate interest in upgrading the central business district.

An extensive part of Tuesday's seminar featured Reid Thomas, a restoration specialist with the state Historic Preservation Office.

Thomas showed images of numerous historic structures people have saved or are working to save in eastern North Carolina. He went on to speak about historic preservation incentives at the state and federal levels.

Starr believed the seminar organizers did a good job.

"I think anybody considering this needs to consult their own tax adviser, but I believe it's an opportunity for people to renovate historic structures, whether it be residential or income-producing," Starr said.

As for whether he's considering investing in property in historic Rocky Mount, he said, "I'm always looking at possible investments." 

"And I think Rocky Mount is on the way up. We've bottomed out — and I think there's a great opportunity for people to look at investments," he said.

At the same time, he said he believes one needs to have a long-term horizon.

During Tuesday's seminar, Thomas showed there is a 20 percent federal tax credit and a 15 percent state tax credit for rehabilitating commercial or income-producing properties.

Thomas particularly noted the state will offer a 5 percent bonus if the property is in a county that the state Commerce Department considers economically distressed. Edgecombe and Nash counties are on that list of distressed counties.

And he noted there also is a 5 percent bonus if the property has industrial structures that have been at least 65 percent vacant for two years.

"So essentially you're looking at a 35 to 45 percent tax credit, which could be huge savings," Thomas said.

Thomas also noted people can spread out the federal and state credits over time.

The property needs to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, either individually or in a historic district. The property also needs to meet standards set by the federal secretary of the interior.

As for residences, Thomas said homeowners may receive a 15 percent state tax credit for rehabilitating non-income-producing properties.

One of the seminar attendees was Laura Durham, a real estate broker with Coldwell Banker Watson Properties who has been a Rocky Mount resident for approximately 29 years.

"And it's what I call home," Durham said. "And I would like to see a more vibrant downtown area."

Another seminar attendee was Roslyn Haynes, who owns Renaissance Realty and serves as a local historic preservation commissioner.

Haynes said she is concerned because many people are not financially in a position to rehabilitate these properties.

Also, Haynes said she believes these established local historic districts limit what people can do due to certain guidelines.

As for whether tax credits could help out, she said based on what she heard from Thomas, "Not from what I'm seeing for the local population."

"And you hear so much about people being afraid of what they are calling 'gentrification,' which means people come from other areas with the wherewithal and buy out these people that can't afford to keep the properties," she said. "And then those people are displaced."

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