Deal reached to make downtown Syracuse projects eligible for historic preservation tax credit again

David J. Valesky

July 01, 2013

By Rick Moriarty | 
on July 01, 2013 at 5:30 AM, updated July 01, 2013 at 8:31 AM

Syracuse, NY -- A deal has been reached with New York officials that will make redevelopment projects in downtown Syracuse eligible for the state's historic preservation tax credit again.

Jessica DeCerce, chief of staff for state Sen. David Valesky, D-Oneida, said the state Department of Taxation and Finance and the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation have agreed to an administrative change that puts downtown Syracuse back on the list of census tracts eligible for the tax credit.

The census tract that includes downtown Syracuse fell off the list this year because income levels have risen substantially as developers have converted vacant and underutilized buildings into apartments with rents averaging $1,219 a month.

DeCerce said the state has agreed to apply a margin of error to the income estimates that determine a census tract's eligibility for the tax credit. The margin of error can be very large -- 68 percent in the case of downtown Syracuse -- because the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, the basis for the estimates, has a relatively small sampling size.

DeCerce said the change will not require legislative action, which likely would have taken much longer to achieve.

Randy Simons, public information officer for the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, confirmed that the administrative change has made projects in downtown Syracuse, as well as some other urban areas of the state, eligible for the tax credit again.

"This simple fix brought all of the ousted tracts back into the program and a few others, as well, that were very important to Syracuse and Buffalo," he said.

Syracuse economic development officials and CenterState Corporation for Economic Opportunity asked the state to change its formula after learning that downtown projects were no longer eligible for the credit.

The credit amounts to up to 20 percent of the cost of a development, up to a total credit of $5 million. The credit helped to make possible the $25 million redevelopment of the five-building Pike Block in downtown Syracuse and would assist with any redevelopment of the vacant Hotel Syracuse and other distressed properties, local officials said.

Valesky was a sponsor of the legislation that expanded the tax credit in 2010. He organized a meeting between local and state officials last month over the issue. Assemblyman William Magnarelli, D-Syracuse, was among those who attended.

"We need to keep up the significant progress being made, especially in downtown Syracuse, through the use of the (tax credit), and I was pleased to assist in finding a solution," Valesky said in a statement.