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Expanded tax credit program could benefit Near Westside neighborhood

By Ray Finger • Star-Gazette • September 14, 2009

With its large number of historic residential and commercial properties, Elmira is expected to benefit from an enhanced historic rehabilitation tax credit program.

Municipal officials across New York had sought improvement to the state's first such tax credit program that was adopted in 2006, saying its incentives were insufficient to generate economic and community revitalization.

The proportion of qualified rehabilitation costs that can be claimed for the credit has been increased by the state from 6 percent to 20 percent. Additionally, the tax credit cap has increased from $100,000 to $5 million on commercial properties and from $25,000 to $50,000 on owner-occupied residential properties.

"With these incentives, I believe that it's really going to have an impact on our community, really a great one," said Kelli Ramsdell, Elmira's director of community development.

The tax credit would benefit historic commercial properties because it can be used in conjunction with a federal tax credit of 20 percent to provide a total tax credit of 40 percent, she said.

On the residential side, the city's Near Westside would be greatly impacted, she said. It is said to have the largest concentration of Victorian homes within that size neighborhood in the state.

"It really opens up the opportunity for property owners within the historic district because it expands the census tracts that are included," said Beth Farr, executive director of the Near Westside Neighborhood Association Inc. "Almost all of the historic district is included in it now."

Three-quarters of Near Westside properties are eligible for the tax credit, compared with only a third under the original legislation, she said.

"It's a great opportunity, really, for anybody who wants to invest in their property. They can take advantage of the tax credits," Farr said.

Efforts are under way to begin the process to have the Maple Avenue area designated as national historic district, said Kaye Newbury, president of Historic Elmira.

"That would open up those parcels as well for tax credits," expanding eligibility for the program beyond the Near Westside and downtown historic districts, she said. Not all of the homes are something you would think of as historic, but being in the district, it would make them eligible for tax credits, she said.

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Historic Elmira, Inc.
PO Box 252, Elmira, NY 14902