Yes, There Are Significant Benefits to Being Designated as a Historic Building!

Preserve the ‘Burg is often asked if there are benefits to a property being designated historic, either as a local landmark or listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The answer is a resounding yes! And the benefits typically apply whether the building is individually listed or listed as a contributing building to a historic district. The benefits can range from financial incentives, in the form of tax credits or reduced property taxes, to flexibility in the application of zoning and land use provisions, to the pride an owner receives in having the historic, architectural or cultural value of their property recognized.  Below, I will identify and briefly describe some of these benefits.

Ad Valorem Tax (“AVT”) Exemption  In 1992, Florida's constitution was amended to allow local governments the option of offering an ad valorem tax exemption on improvements to historic properties. Both St. Pete and Pinellas County provide for this exemption meaning that eligible property owners will not see increases to their city or county property taxes (exclusive of school board taxes) for ten years as a result of renovations undertaken consistent with historic design standards. At the end of the ten year tax increase abatement period, the property tax value reverts to that based upon the the actual asessed property value. Numerous property owners have taken advantage of this benefit including homeowners, downtown properties like the Kress Building and the Green/Richman Arcade and others like the owner of the Mecca Apartments (pictured after renovation). Click here to read its AVT staff report.

Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credit – This benefit can be used with National Register income producing properties (i.e., commercial or residential rental). It provides for a direct dollar for dollar reduction in the amount of income taxes owed up to 20% of the qualifying cost of the rehabilitation. The credit has been recognized as one of the nation's most successful and cost-effective community revitalization programs, having leveraged over $102 billion in private investment while preserving more than 45,000 historic properties since 1976. Click here to read the latest report about the impact of the Federal tax credit and here to see a listing of Florida tax credit projects, including the Pennsylvania and Sunset Hotels in St. Petersburg.

A black and white photo of the Snell building

Preservation or Facade Easement – Placing an easement on a building is a little known tool that can bring substantial tax savings to historic property owners. The easement is a voluntary legal agreement that permanently protects an historic property. Through the easement, a property owner places restrictions on the development of or changes to the historic property’s exterior, then transfers these restrictions to a preservation or conservation organization. An easement has been placed upon the downtown Snell Building (pictured). PTB is presently developing an easement program to encourage more historic property owners to use this tool and to allow PTB to be a potential recipient of the easements. Click here to read more about easements.

Adaptive Reuse - Through the city code adaptive reuse provision, designated buildings may be re-purposed for uses that would otherwise be prohibited within the applicable zoning district. The adaptive reuse process ensures that potential secondary impacts to surrounding properties will be addressed. An example of adaptive reuse in the works is for the historic Glen Oak Elementary School building. Its new use will be as veterans’ housing. Another example is the historic Redeemer Lutheran Church buildings at 4355 Central Ave. that are now  office use.

Code Flexibility - The City and Florida building codes allow for flexibility in their application to historic buildings. Thus, historic structures that do not strictly comply with the code can still be approved where it is shown that the purpose of the code provision has been addressed and no hazard will be created or allowed to continue. One local code requirement often at issue when reusing historic buildings is parking. Less than the minimum number of parking spaces otherwise required by code can be allowed for designated historic property renovations.

Transfer of Development Rights (TDR's) - Downtown designated landmarks can sell their “excess” development rights to a downtown development project needing an FAR bonus to allow for increased intensity (size). A required condition of the transfer is that the local landmark will be retained. Until the recent construction boom, this preservation benefit largely went unused but new buildings like ONE and the proposed 400 Central development are purchasing or have purchased historic development rights.

A photo of the old State Theatre sign on a sunny day

Downtown Historic Rehabilitation Grant Program – This is a new city grant program (started 2019) which provides grants up to $250,000 to locally designated buildings within the boundaries of downtown’s Intown Redevelopment area. The City has allocated a total of $5 million to the grant program which is expected to offer grants for a five year period. Pictured is the historic State Theatre, now the "Floridian Social Club" which received a grant.

Why Should You Preserve Properties? 

Check out these Twenty-Four Reasons Historic Preservation is Good for Your Community, by Place Economics, a private sector firm specializing in the analysis of the economic impacts of historic preservation.  

The National Trust for Historic Preservation and this simple list of incentives by the City of St. Petersburg are other excellent resources that provide further information for those interested in learning more about the benefits of designation. 

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Union Trust Building
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