Neighborhood associations plan Historic Properties Development Seminar

Neighborhood associations plan Historic Properties Development Seminar


Rockford’s downtown River District Association, along with the Mid-Town District Association and the City of Rockford Community Development Department, will be holding a Historic Properties Development Seminar on Saturday, November 2, 2002, at the City Plaza Center (555 N. Court St.) in downtown Rockford, Ill. The program is designed to help developers of historic buildings and their advisors to understand the historic development process, including federal and state tax incentives that may apply to such projects.

One of the organizers for the event, former River District Association President Larry Morrissey, has lauded the federal Historic Preservation Tax Credit for helping his family to restore the former Rockford Morning Star building, which currently houses his law practice as well as loft apartments and other commercial space. “The Historic Preservation Tax Credit is not well understood in the Rockford area, and consequently, many developers forego viable investment opportunities in our urban core,” Morrissey stated.

Panelists for the day-long seminar include a wide range of professionals from around the Midwest as well as local figures. Both private developers and public agencies will provide their unique perspectives on the historic properties development process. Attorney Don Longwell of the law firm of Squire, Sanders and Dempsey in Cleveland, Ohio, has been involved with numerous Historic Preservation Tax Credit deals throughout the country and has specialized in many tax credit transactions that have involved both public and private entities.

“There is no reason why a government entity or non-profit corporation cannot take advantage of the federal tax credit in a properly structured transaction,” Longwell stated. Longwell was involved in the structuring of a tax credit deal for the $10 million-plus restoration of Sioux City, Iowa’s opulent Orpheum Theater. Through the use of federal Historic Preservation Tax Credits, the Orpheum Theater Project would generate millions of dollars in tax credit revenue for the non-profit Orpheum Theater Preservation Project Corporation. David Bernstein, the vice-president of the Orpheum Theater Preservation Project, will be one of the presenters at the seminar. Bernstein will provide a case study of the Orpheum Theater Project.

“The purpose of the seminar is to point out opportunities for our community to take advantage of the tax credit and future projects,” said Sarah Skorija, current president of the River District Association. “There are many buildings that members of our River District Association would like to see evaluated with an eye towards the Historic Preservation Tax Credit before any determination to tear the buildings down is made. While some recent proposals have called for the demolition of the old Armory, for example, with proper use of federal tax credit incentives, buildings like the Armory may very well be a smart financial investment for our community.”

Other sessions during the seminar will include evaluation of design and construction concerns. Local architects and Gary Anderson and Helmuth Redschlag will address concerns that will include acceptable design for historic preservation projects as well as dealing with issues such as asbestos and lead-based paint. Other experts in the field include Mike Jackson of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency in Springfield, Ill.; Colleen Gallagher of the Internal Revenue Service office in St. Paul, Minn.; and Royce Yeater, Midwest director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. One of the sessions during the seminar will focus on combining the Historic Preservation Tax Credit with other development incentives including tax increment financing districts, Community Development block grants and affordable housing tax credits. Mike Laube of Nex-Gen Advisors in Chicago, Ill., will explain how these programs are being combined to develop public-private partnerships to get projects done.

Other local experts include Chandler Anderson of Icon Development Group, who has focused on historic property redevelopment as both a developer and contractor, and Val Olafson, who has consulted on numerous nominations to the National Register, helping both individual buildings and neighborhoods gain a listing on the National Register.

Registration for the seminar begins at 8:15 a.m. on November 2, with the program running from 8:45 a.m. till 4:30 p.m. Registration fees are $50 per person with a $35 rate for government and non-profit agencies. For further information, please contact the River District Association in care of Kim Wheeler, 127 N. Wyman St., Rockford, IL 61101. Phone number: (815) 964-6221 or e-mail

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