2016 is the 50th Anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act, the first national policy governing preservation.
The act was signed into law by Lyndon B. Johnson after a period of rapid change in the United States that saw many historic buildings razed, such as the original Penn Station.
The National Historic Preservation Act:
- Created the National Register of Historic Places
- Created the President’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
- Required states to create historic preservation offices and inventories of important sites
- Created the Historic Preservation Fund to provide grants to states, Certified Local Governments, and Indian tribes for projects relating to historic preservation
- Created the Section 106 Process for projects using federal funds
Watch a video on the Section 106 Process
In Cleveland, historic tax credits have been a powerful economic development tool- helping spur the Downtown residential boom in the Warehouse District, and making possible projects such as The 9, the Fairmount Creamery and Mitchell’s Ice Cream in Ohio City.
We talked to Tom Yablonsky, co-founder of Canalway Partners, Executive VP of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance and Executive Director of the Historic Warehouse & Gateway Districts regarding the impact of the National Historic Preservation Act on Cleveland.
How did you first get involved with historic preservation?
I first about learned the potential of the tools offered by the National Historic Preservation Act while working with a consulting firm in Indiana in the early 80’s that worked on Section 106 historic reviews.
I soon moved back to Cleveland where I volunteered with the National Park Service. This work directly led me to co-found Canalway Partners (then named North Cuyahoga Valley Corridor Inc.) with the idea of establishing a connection between Cleveland and the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area via the historic Ohio & Erie Canal towpath.
I was also a volunteer with the Historic Warehouse District Development Corporation and was hired as Executive Director in 1985. Through our work, the Warehouse District became ground zero for Historic Preservation and adaptive reuse in Cleveland.
What parts of the National Historic Preservation Act have been most impactful on Cleveland?
The Federal tax credit has been very impactful. In Cleveland, another major tool has been the alternative building code for historic buildings.
In 2006, I was a part of a coalition with Heritage Ohio that established the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit. It is noteworthy for Cleveland that the part of downtown serviced by Historic Gateway Neighborhood has been awarded more preservation tax credits than any other district in Ohio.
From 1985 to today I’ve been part of the leadership implementing development in the following Cleveland historic districts:
- The Warehouse District
- East 4th Street
- Lower Prospect/Huron
- Lower Euclid Historic District
- Superior Ave.
- Old River Road
- Cleveland Centre Historic District
The historic districts are very important, as the contributing buildings in those districts can be eligible for financing strategies including tax credits and historic conservation easements.
As Executive Director of the Historic Warehouse and Gateway Districts, our collaborative program has raised over $160M in equity. The easements protect the historic character of buildings while creating tax incentives and raising equity for development.
Do you have a personal favorite preservation project in Cleveland?
I have a few! I recruited the developer, and helped structure financing for the Arcade Hyatt. The Arcade Hyatt was a $65M project and a key to making it happened was a $12M historic easement- which was very close to the amount needed to restore the Arcade’s historic skylight.
As Director of Historic Gateway, I led the team that developed the original application on behalf of Cuyahoga County for State Historic Tax Credits for the Cleveland Trust Rotunda and Swetland Building.
These Awards were eventually used as a $31M catalyst for the Nine Project, which includes the Downtown Heinen’s, the Metropolitan- a Marriot Autograph Hotel, and two different apartment buildings. The Project could not have been funded without those tax credits.
What can be done to further boost development through historic preservation?
Well we have to protect these tools.
We need to grow the funds available in Ohio by removing the $5M cap on individual projects and increasing how much is awarded in total per round. We also need to give safe harbor to the historic easement program as envisioned by Congressional legislation. This would provide more clarity for IRS audits and project implementation.
Again, the program has raised over $160M in equity and has proven to be an important development tool.
National Park Service- National Historic Preservation Act
Towpath in Cleveland Blog- Historic Downtown Cleveland Luncheon Forum- Leveraging Resources for Stronger, Healthier Communities