Ms. Julie C. Tells You What’s What

Often we at the Preservation Alliance speak about the singular benefit of the State’s Historic Homes Tax Credit. Historic properties utilizing a tax credit, which offers financial resources to rehabilitation projects, is a true and unique benefit in Connecticut.

The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), a part of the Department of Economic and Community Development ,has produced a series of videos to inform and guide applicants on how to secure tax credits for a residential project.  Starring none other than Julie Carmelich, Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit Administrator, they are simple, clear, informative and truly helpful. These videos can walk a homeowner through the process of securing an allocation of tax credits.

We often speak to property owners about how tax credits can reduce the out of pocket expense of doing rehabilitation projects. There are several steps which must be accomplished and the work envisioned must meet certain preservation guidelines to work.  Yet securing this financial resource is not at all difficult.

We at the Preservation Alliance stand ready to offer guidance to property owners in Hartford and surrounding towns.  Our Historic Home Rehabilitation Tax Credit website page provides all the information needed to apply for the tax credit.  Our technical assistance team is ready to help an owner move forward with a project.

We really like to help make preservation matter (and easier) here in the City.  The State Historic Preservation Office is always working hard to making this more accessible.  We urge you to spend some time reviewing these videos.  Making contact with Julie is direct, she offers several methods of getting in touch with her regarding questions, comments or concerns You can also follow the SHPO on FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/CTSHPO/?fref=ts

We all are here to help and truly Ms Julie C knows what’s what about homeowner tax credit.

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Is It a Convertible?

97 Willians assessor pixAs you review the staff proposal of work to be approved by the Hartford Historic Preservation Commission at 97 Williams Street, it is somewhat puzzling.  There are several pictures of a two-family house, quite attractive, surrounded but large, mature trees.  It is a picture taken in the summer so the trees have their leaves and the property looks really good.  Well, maybe the porches could use some attention because they look as if someone has kind of knocked them around and columns and rails are somewhat askew.  The property is attractive with nice porches set on either side of the building and are painted a nice color.  Then the reality sets in as you read the request for approval.

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The applicant, 97 Williams Street. LLC, headed by Sohodra Dilchard , is requesting permission to complete a total renovation and repair of the building which has been significantly damaged by fire.  On closer inspection we realize that a fire has basically eliminated the third floor.  (link to images). Damage has been extensive throughout the property and will require a significant investment to return this two-family to a productive homeownership opportunity.  Yet Sohodra, who has good experience in renovating properties in Upper Albany Avenue, has stepped up to bring a team to make the house whole once again.  She has done several similar projects and is convinced that 97 Williams Street is a keeper.  (Unfortunately this includes asking the homeless person who lives on the damaged porch to move along.)    Her team has experience with tackling properties in such dire straits and they have been successful in turning these around.  She hired Bob Hurd, The Architects, our neighbor here at 56 Arbor Street, to guide her through the process of restoring the original exterior fabric of the house to include wood shingles, wood windows and the front porches which are truly nice.  She intends to utilize the State’s Homeowner Historic Tax Credit.  Our role has been to review the plans and to give our blessing as the project is put before the Historic Commission.  I am happy to say that the petition passed with unanimous support!

In writing I want to once again give a shout out to the City’s Department of Development Services for engaging and supporting entrepreneurs like 97 Williams Street, LLC who are dedicated to improving our neighborhoods.  Step-by-step renovation projects which attempt to preserve and protect neighborhoods are critical actions that contribute to the future of Hartford.  Their commitment needs our collective admiration and support.

Please continue to follow the progress that we will witness at 97 Williams Street.  We at the Preservation Alliance invite property owners to seek out our technical assistance to offer advice and guidance as they tackle their properties.

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A Vision, A Commitment . . . and Patience

Cargill Mills

Last week I visited one of the quiet corners of Connecticut, Putnam.  Honestly I had skirted he city many times on my way between Hartford and Providence but never actually driven into the city. My purpose was to visit the Cargill Falls Mill. This project represents “a renaissance of America’s oldest mill site merging environmental sustainability with historic character.”  I met with the visionary couple, Greg Renshaw and Leanne Parker, to walk the site and discuss a minor role which we might play in the Lofts at Cargill Falls Mill.

What I discovered is perhaps one of the most exciting and transformative projects in Connecticut. Take a site containing the oldest extant mill laying along the Quinnebaug River (which is lovely!) in various forms of decay and in need of lots of money to renovate and reuse, add the commitment to harness the River to produce hydroelectric energy and the vision to produce 82 units of housing and you have a dream defining wizardry or insanity.

Over many decades I have learned that truly good developers of historic places have the power to see vacant and abandoned buildings alive and thriving once again.  The successful projects ignore reality and see the finished development, always keeping in sight that it can happen and never losing the belief that with time and patience it will happen.  What most impresses me is the determination to bring hydroelectric power to the Mill Lofts as if the complete and total renovation of fours dilapidated buildings is not a sufficient challenge.  Think about the additional hurdles of dealing with the environmental and regulatory roadblocks inherent in fooling with a river and adding electric production to the grid!  By the way, there was an attempt to build a new bridge over the river but that’s a story for another day.

Lofts at Cargill Falls Mills

The mill buildings, there are four, date from the 1800’s to 1950’s and each has a distinct architectural style.  Visually engaging, the four buildings follow the banks of the river.  As Greg and Leanne point out, this is most fortunate in that the complex has a very strategic southern exposure.  All the residential units will enjoy amazing light.  We typically see mill buildings as monoliths.  Cargill Mills appears as a village of different materials and styles due to the eras in which each addition was added.  Yet practically speaking imagine the process simply to gain approval of the National Park Service for plans to complete an historic restoration.  Oh, do not forget that a river runs through it!  Actually the flow does in fact run under parts of the site and is channeled to produce energy.  The wisdom of the Yankee mill developers in harnessing the power of water is now to be re-purposed to produce electricity.

There is more to write about and tell of this exciting project.  Pictures are to follow as a series of before images.  The Lofts at Cargill Falls Mill is to be an interesting work in progress.  Our role is minor but strategic in a financial collaboration to bring more resources, generated through the State of Connecticut Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits, to aid in producing greater equity for the development.  Stay tuned for more information and to be a witness to this amazing project.

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Doing What We Can: Collaboration

390 Capitol Avenue street view

Quietly and without fanfare work has begun to re-purpose 390 Capitol Avenue (commonly known as the Hartford Office Supply Building) into apartments. This long abandoned block at the corner of Flower Street and Capitol Avenue sat sadly as a reminder of historic manufacturing buildings without a future.  Times have changed, thankfully, and the excitement of living in Hartford has caused an economic argument for creating housing, of a larger scale, to be developed.

Dakota Partners has tackled the project with gusto.  This developer has already completed many first class projects in New England and most recently 179 Allyn Street downtown.   As Roberto Arista comments, principal of Dakota Partners, “it’s all about the light”.  Historic manufacturing buildings are in fact all about the light. Take a look 390 Capitol Avenuewhen driving along Capitol and view the original window openings and you will see just what is to happen as new, appropriate windows are installed.

Our role has been subtle yet demonstrates how the Preservation Alliance can act strategically to encourage developers to tackle major projects which will contribute to preserving the fabric of Hartford.  Connecticut as well as Federal Historic Tax Credits are being utilized.  These tax credits could then be sold to investors, which results in equity for the project developer but also a tax bill on the credits.  In Connecticut legislation has been enacted which allows a transfer of the tax credits to a qualified not-for-profit such as the Preservation Alliance.  We then sell the tax credits and then lend the proceeds back to the project. (Clear as mud?)  The whole point is that more equity is contributed to the project making it more economically feasible.  It is a total win for development and re-purposing of old buildings.

As the Preservation Alliance moves forward in new strategic directions, the use of tax transference is only one of the innovative ways for us to be a catalyst in creative activities which makes preservation happen.  We want to make preservation easier for property owners.  Please take time to amble through our website to find other resources.  And by all means contact us with your questions or comments or if you need any assistance with your own historic project.

390 Capitol sign

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