by Max Brantley
Kathy Wells, president of the Coalition of Greater Little Rock Neighborhoods, reports a Little Rock City Hall policy change to allow more time to preserve historic housing before it is torn down.
The city will put a hold of 180 days on demolition of structures deemed historic on the "unsafe and vacant" listing. Some 700 structures are on this list. The map above (fully viewable at this link) shows a portion of the city, with the U/V houses denoted by the blue markers.
Significant state and federal tax credits are available for rehab of qualifying structures in historic districts, such as the Central High neighborhood, if the work is done right. Realistically, the number saved by more time and more education about the tax credits will probably be small. But, once gone, they most surely aren't coming back.
What's more important is the need to maintain tax credit availability by keeping at least 50 percent of the structures in a designated historic district with historic status. A recent demolition of a former laundry on 7th Street for a MEMS expansion has put that historic district right on the line for qualification for tax credit status.
Kathy's memo follows:
To CGLRN from Pres. Kathy Wells:
Good News for advocates of historic preservation! In a meeting yesterday at City Hall, Ast. City Mgr. Bryan Day granted the request from advocates to put a hold of 180 days on the historic structures in the city U/V listing.
The Coalition of Greater LR Neighborhoods thanks Day and code officials who agreed to the request.
Now it is up to us to promote rehabilitation of these neglected houses instead of allowing them to slip into demolition. The Unsafe and Vacant listing of the city means owners have failed to respond to inspections and demands that repairs be made to bring the houses up to minimum levels of health and safety.
Some may linger on this list of 700-plus houses for years; others could be razed and removed in two weeks — if a city director complains, and if neighbors demand removal.
It is up to us to educate our neighbors about the $25,000 state tax credit available on each of the structures identified by state officials as eligible for the credit, because these already have been identified as historic. Advocates supplied the city U/V listing, and asked state historic preservation officials to make the review.
Anyone thinking of repairing a house and seeking the credit should contact state officials at the beginning, to get advance approval for their work, and assure renovations will meet standards for preserving the historic nature of the house. Once approved, a minimum of $25,000 must be spent to become eligible for the credit. At that point, the owner may claim 25 percent of the project cost for credit, up to a maximum of $25,000. And, that state credit may be carried forward five years on annual returns.
To spend $100,000 and get a $25,000 credit on state taxes is a good incentive to preserve our heritage, and bring back our historic neighborhoods.
The credits may also be sold to investors, providing money for the repairs. One bank is actively buying the credits.
To learn more, contact the Ark. Historic Preservation Div. at:
look up: Preservation Services - for both state and federal tax credit programs
Another resource is Vanessa McKuin at the Ark. Historic Preservation Alliance at:
And Rhea Roberts at the Quapaw Quarter Assn. at:
The listing is being refined, and will be posted online soon. A number of houses are on the list in the Central High Historic District, as well as the newly-recognized Dunbar Historic Neighborhood.
Authorities recognized these were historic districts because of a certain number of structures in the territory. If too many are demolished, authorities may withdraw that recognition and that would threaten all remaining families who relied on tax credits in previous years. Authorities can, and have, demanded the return of the thousands in credits if a district is loses too many houses, preservation officials told us.
Keep the preservation momentum going! Tell your neighbors to save these vacant houses, and get those credits! We all benefit.
City officials also informed advocates that the mayor’s proposal for an ordinance providing for a hold of 180 days on historic structures headed for demolition is progressing, and will be presented shortly.