Agriculture Historic Preservation Missouri

Missouri Rural Preservation Organization Launched

by Michael R. Allen

On Saturday, January 23, a group of barn owners, architectural historians and craftspeople met near New Bloomfield, Missouri, to discuss creating a new statewide preservation group focused on rural structures. Bill Hart, Field Representative for Missouri Preservation, called the meeting. Bill and Susan Miller graciously hosted the meeting at their home, a bright red barn that they have converted into a unique home. The group had the honor of the wise counsel of Osmund Overby, the dean of Missouri’s preservation movement, and farmer and humorist Lewis Baumgartner, the “World’s Worst Farmer.”

Meeting participants decided to launch a new organization, the Missouri Barn Alliance and Rural Network. Preliminary goals include a statewide survey of barns and farms, educational programs and development of a resource clearinghouse for owners of rural structures in need of technical assistance and skilled contractors.

The group will meet again in early May. Those wishing to participate should send an e-mail to Bill Hart at Additionally, Bill will be discussing the new organization and its goals at a brown bag lunch talk at Architecture St. Louis, 911 Washington #170, starting at noon on Friday, March 12th.


News from Route 66

The Route 66 Association of Missouri sends along the following news:

The National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program is pleased to announce it is accepting applications for the 2010 cost-share grant cycle.

Applications may be submitted to the program office until April 2, 2010. Awards will be announced on or before May 21, 2010.

Read more here.

Also, the Route 66 Corridor Management Plan meetings are coming up in January and February. Details online here.

DALATC Historic Preservation Missouri Public Policy

New Federal Bills Would Help Neighborhood Preservation Efforts

by Michael R. Allen

Public policy has a tremendous impact on the chance that historic buildings have for survival. St. Louisans know well how many buildings are still standing, gloriously rehabilitated, because of the Missouri historic rehabilitation tax credit adopted in 1998. Many remember what happened to rehab efforts here when the 1986 federal tax act removed the major federal rehabilitation tax credit. Some of us have concerns about the impact of the Distressed Areas Land Assemblage Tax Credit Act, which was passed in 2007 to encourage large-scale urban development without any preservation safeguards.

Two bills recently introduced in the U.S. Congress offer smart policy changes that could help us save thousands of historic buildings in St. Louis and communities across the nation. In Missouri, we have had an inverted policy situation where our state’s laws are more helpful to preservation efforts than the federal laws. In most states, however, it’s the other way around — and the federal laws are very restrictive, with no practical use to homeowners and small developers. That could change if we work to pass these bills.

Historic Homeowners Revitalization Act (HR 3670)

U.S. Representative Russ Carnahan (D-MO) has long been a supporter of changing federal laws to adopt preservation policies that benefit homeowners instead of just developers. On September 29, our hometown Congressman introduced the Historic Homeowners Revitalization Act (HR 3670), which has already gained 28 co-sponsors. Here’s a run-down of the changes it would make to the existing federal historic rehabilitation tax credit:

  • The bill would create a 20% tax credit — capped at $60,000 — for qualified expenses rehabbing primary residences that are certified historic buildings; currently, only income-producing properties are eligible for this credit.
  • The bill would allow buyers of rehabilitated homes to capture the credits for which sellers are eligible, thus creating a useful form of transfer.
  • The bill would allow federal historic rehabilitation tax credits to be transferable for homeowners. Without this feature, homeowners would have a tough time trying to use the new credits. Many small developers can’t use the existing federal historic rehabilitation credits because they cannot be transferred.
  • The bill changes the existing tax credit to allow issuance of credits totaling 130% of eligible rehabilitation costs on residential rental buildings in distressed census tracts. Thus, the bill widens the incentive for retention and enhancement of rental housing where it is needed. If an owner can get 100% for a condo conversion or 130% for retaining rental units, that owner just might go with the higher credit amount — and help neighborhoods retain quality affordable housing.

    Representatives William Clay (D-MO) and Ike Skelton (D-MO) are among the co-sponsors, which include a few Republicans. We need to get all of Missouri and Illinois’ representatives on board!

    Community Restoration and Revitalization Act (H.R. 3715 and S. 1743)

    On October 1, Senators Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Olympia Snow (R-ME) introduced the Senate version of the Community Restoration and Revitalization Act (S. 1743) and Representative Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) and Pat Tiberi (R-OH) introduced the House companion (H.R. 3715). This bill provides a nice companion to Carnahan’s measure.

    The Community Restoration and Revitalization Act would amend Section 47 of the U.S. Tax Code to do the following:

  • The bill would raise from 20% to 30% the percentage of qualified rehabilitation costs that can be returned in credits for projects of $5 million or less. These credits would become transferable under the bill.
  • The 10% rehabilitation tax credit for non-historic buildings — the federal rehab tax credit not often mentioned locally — would be able to be used for residential rental properties. This would allow for mixed-use and apartment buildings to use this credit, instead of only all-commercial buildings.
  • Very important among the bill’s changes is removing the 1986 tax law’s provision that set 1936 in place as the cut-off date for buildings eligible for that 10% federal credit. That year marks 50 years back from 1986, but the year itself is codified so now buildings must be 73 years old to use the credit Instead, this bill would change it to a floating 50-year mark.
  • Energy efficiency would be rewarded, with up to $5 per square foot in extra credits for projects that increase efficiency of historic buildings by 30% of more.
  • State historic rehabilitation tax credits would no longer be treated as income for federal tax purposes.
  • The bill would remove restrictions on “disqualified leases” that currently prevent user of the credit from leasing space in rehabilitated buildings to non-profit or civic organizations.

    The Community Restoration and Revitalization Act has only one Senate co-sponsor (Snowe, since only one senator can be a sponsor) but 44 House co-sponsors. The Missouri and Illinois delegations need to sign on to this one too — only Representative Carnahan and Illinois Representatives Jerry Costello (D) and Danny Davis (D) have signed on.

    Time to make calls and send letters to your representatives and our senators. Forget bailouts and giant projects. In this recession, the real economic stimulus we need is to widen the amount of money accessible to every citizen that stays at work renewing our homes, shops and communities.

    More information on both bills, including full text, is available on the Preservation Action website.

  • Categories
    Historic Preservation Missouri Missouri Legislature Public Policy

    Energy Efficiency Act Snubs Missouri Historic Tax Credit

    by Michael R. Allen

    Missouri State Senator Brad Lager (R-Savannah) won a legislative victory this year when his Energy Efficient Investment Act passed the General Assembly and was signed into law by Democratic Governor Jay Nixon.

    The bill’s chief purpose is to allow utilities to recover costs of energy efficiency measures to deter construction of new power plants. Lager wisely has opposed public subsidy to power plant construction. The state’s Public Service Commission’s rule is that Missouri’s electric companies only raise rates if the rates are equal to or less than the rates that the companies would have charged if the company had built a new power plant. That rule encourages more energy output without addressing efficiency.

    The bill allows utilities to count toward output energy not being consumed and enables utilities to establish programs where customers receive benefits for demand-side efficiency upgrades.

    However, Lager could not resist riding his favorite hobby horse into the bill — opposition to the state’s historic rehabilitation tax credit, which was modified for the first time ever this year in response to Lager’s efforts to kill it.

    Section 14 of the act states:

    Any customer of an electrical corporation who has received a state tax credit under sections 135.350 to 135.362, RSMo, or received under sections 253.545 to 253.561, RSMo, shall not be eligible for participation in any demand-side program offered by an electrical corporation under this section if such program offers a monetary incentive to the customer.

    Sections 135.350-362 deal with a range of tax credit programs that Lager also opposes, including the state’s low income housing tax credit, but sections 253.545-561 enable the state historic rehabilitation tax credit. Vigilance on the rehabilitation tax credit remains crucial in this post-Jeff Smith era.

    Mid-Century Modern Missouri

    Mid-Century Modern Update from Washington, Missouri

    by Michael R. Allen

    The historic mid-century Patke’s Dairy building at 1805 Fifth Street in Washington, Missouri is now for sale (see listing here). The dairy had been owned and operated by the Patke family at that location for over 50 years. There is a great sign in front, too.

    Also in Washington, the Bank of Washington has completely refurbished the swanky sign that advertised their drive-through lanes. Unfortunately, the bank grossly altered its 1950s-era building. The bank added two floors to the two-story streamline building and clad the expanded building in a common, confused proto-classical envelope. However, it’s good that the sign is back!

    Historic Preservation Missouri Missouri Legislature Public Policy

    Historic Tax Credit Compromise Celebrated

    by Michael R. Allen

    Yesterday the Missouri Coalition for Historic Preservation and Economic Development sent a press release celebrating the legislative compromise reached in the Missouri Senate at the end of the session. The compromise language is included in an economic development omnibus bill awaiting signature by Governor Jay Nixon.

    Here’s a summary of the compromise:

    * A per-project residential cap of $1,000,000 in qualified rehabilitation expenditures (QREs) for owner occupied single family homes.

    * A small project exemption for projects with $1.1 million in qualified rehabilitation expenditures (QREs) (these do not count toward a cap).

    * $140 million cap on historic tax credits (existing projects do not fall under the cap).

    * An effective date of January 1, 2010.

    Historic Preservation Missouri Missouri Legislature Public Policy

    Missouri Senate Passes Economic Development Bill That Includes Historic Tax Credit Cap

    by Michael R. Allen

    Last night, after a long impasse, the Missouri Senate passed a Senate substitute to economic development bill HB 191. The bill reflects a legislative compromise reached on historic tax credits: the state’s first cap on the program.

    HB 191 places a $140 million cap on the annual issuance of historic tax credits, but exempts projects with qualified rehabilitation costs of $1.1 million or less — the majority of projects — from counting toward the cap. The figures will not be indexed to rise with inflation. The new rules won’t go into effect until January 1, 2010. Honestly, I don’t think that these changes will make much of an impact on the program.

    The compromise was made possible when Senator Jason Crowell (R-Cape Girardeau), a staunch opponent of the program in the past, switched his position and began speaking in favor of the program on the Senate floor. Crowell and Senator Jeff Smith (D-St. Louis) worked with leadership and erstwhile historic tax credit foe Senator Brad Lager (R-Savannah) to forge an acceptable compromise. Without Crowell’s switch, a compromise may have been impossible.

    The bill now heads to the House for final approval.

    Architecture Events Housing James Clemens House Missouri

    Tonight: Lecture and Book Signing on the Houses of Missouri

    This evening, learn about the houses of Missouri at one of Missouri’s most important historic homes:

    Lecture and Book Signing: Houses of Missouri, 1870-1940
    Monday, May 11, 2009
    7:00-9:00 P.M.

    Carol Grove and Cydney Millstein’s Houses of Missouri, 1870-1940 is the first comprehensive account of the development of residential architecture in the state. With nearly 300 archival photographs, drawings, and original floor plans, the book offers an intimate tour behind the facades of 45 purely American houses ranging from pastoral retreats to mid-century modern mansions. The authors will discuss the book project at the historic Chatillon-DeMenil House, with a reception and signing to follow. Copies of the book (retail price $65) will be on sale, but the reception is complimentary.

    The Chatillon-Demenil House is located at 3352 DeMenil Place.

    This event is part of Preservation Week, a whirlwind of exciting events offered by Landmarks Association of St. Louis. Come out this week to learn and celebrate our region’s great architecture!

    Speaking of historic houses, my talk yesterday at Architecture St. Louis on the James Clemens, Jr. House drew a spirited crowd of people who learned about the history of the house, its namesake, and the current threat to the house and its attached buildings. This was a great kick-off to Preservation Week! Hopefully one year from now I can report back with good news about the Clemens House. Meantime, expect an update based on the talk here.

    Abandonment Missouri

    Hotel Bourbon, Sitting Vacant by the Tracks

    by Michael R. Allen

    Over the weekend, I passed through Bourbon, Missouri and saw the old Bourbon Hotel. The abandoned railroad hotel apparently dates to the 1890s and served some time as a hostel before closing in the late 20th century. Many cities along the Frisco line had hotels like this one, with wide front porches facing the tracks. As passenger rail service declined, so did the economic life of these hotels.

    There are no buildings in Bourbon listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and only five sites in all of Crawford County are included in the National Register. The Bourbon Hotel easily could be the sixth. My hosts did not know who owned the hotel, or what plans — if any — exist for preservation.

    A short, spirited history of Bourbon (including origin of the name) can be found here. The conclusion is quite a treat: “Bourbon has never aspired to be a big city, with a cold, business-like attitude. Instead, Bourbon’s businessmen and civic leaders strive to keep the friendly, neighborly manner that has long been an Ozark tradition. Bourbon people are just plain folks, who like to make friends and make you feel at home.”

    Historic Preservation Missouri Missouri Legislature Public Policy

    Small Town Missouri Needs the Historic Tax Credit

    by Michael R. Allen

    The last time that I drove back from Jefferson City on Highway 94, I snapped this photograph of a historic store building in Tebbetts, Missouri. Who wants to be that this building will still be standing in ten years if Missouri greatly caps the state historic rehabilitation tax credit?

    The real reason that Missouri senators should oppose the cap on historic tax credits proposed by Senator Brad Lager (R) is not because St. Louis’ “tall hogs” are hungry. The reason is because small towns across this state have only started figuring out how to use the tax credit to save their heritage and bring economic development to Main Street. In the past five years there has been a spate of tax credit activity outside of St. Louis and Kansas City. It’s not nearly as much as the activity in those big cities, but it will never grow if the credit is capped.

    If the credit is capped, and the credit run through an appropriations process, issuance of the credit will become a political process. Currently, all one needs is a completed project and the right forms filled out — do the work, get the credit. A cap and appropriation will benefit the big developers who can afford to gain influence and work at getting credits full time. The Lager cap would end up benefiting those who are already good at using the credit (big cities) and stunt the growth of tax credit activity in small towns across Missouri.

    I am a St. Louisan who knows this building in Tebbetts needs the historic tax credit just as much as the Mullanphy Emigrant Home, or houses in Benton Park. We can’t write off the rest of the state. Ironically, Lager’s proposal might do just that. Rural areas are always at a disadvantage when it comes to economic development. The historic tax credit is the antidote, and with time and training — would Lager support a state-funded tax credit training program? — the small towns will use this credit to remake themselves. All of the Lager changes work against small towns trying to survive, and play right into the hands of politically-connected developers.