LaHood convenes ‘historic’ roundtable in Peoria Heights
PEORIA HEIGHTS — Trefzger’s Bakery was the site for a discussion on economic development Friday as U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Peoria, convened a group of state and local officials to talk about the benefits of historic tax credits — and munch on cookies.
A day after Gov. Bruce Rauner visited Peoria to sign a historic tax credit bill for the state, LaHood focused on legislation to enhance the Federal Historic Tax Credit.
“Some people wanted to get rid of (tax credits), but we dived in. In the end, it got diminished a little bit but we saved it,” said LaHood, who has introduced a bill to strengthen the Federal Historic Tax Credit that was part of tax reform legislation signed into law in December.
Trefzger’s was cited as an example of the benefits of historic restoration. “This was a $4.8 million project, ” said developer Katie Kim, referring to the 19th-century manufacturing center converted to a bakery in 2016. ”(The project) had a $17 million ripple effect in Peoria Heights,” she said.
Mike Waldinger of the Springfield-based American Institute of Architects said the Trefzger’s building with its exposed brick and timbers would be the structure “that people remember.” “It’s what makes an area unique,” he said.
Michael Freilinger, president/CEO of the Downtown Development Corp., said the combination of a 20 percent federal tax credit and 25 percent state tax credit has been responsible for getting projects done in Peoria’s Warehouse District. “It’s smart development because you’re using buildings that are already there,” he said.
As an example of the importance of the need for historic tax credits, Freilinger said that during a two-year period when the future of the tax credits was in doubt, “nothing got done” in the Warehouse District. “The key to Peoria’s future is to revitalize the Downtown.”
Bonnie McDonald, president and CEO of Chicago-based Landmarks Illinois, a state organization that serves as “the statewide voice for historic preservation,” said the restoration of old buildings generated more jobs than new construction across the country.
“For every $1 invested in historic preservation, $1.25 comes back in the way of economic development,” she said, noting that 269 federal tax credit projects were undertaken in Illinois between 2002 and 2016, resulting in more than $3 billion in development.
McDonald provided an example of what can happen when tax credits aren’t available for historic preservation. She cited an old hotel earmarked for renovation in Quincy but the developer wasn’t able to obtain historic tax credits for the project. “Unfortunately, the building burned down and now there’s a vacant lot on the public square,” she said.
LaHood, who supported historic tax credits as a state senator, said it was important to recognize that state and federal tax credits “go hand-in-hand” to encourage economic development.
Steve Tarter covers city and county government for the Journal Star. He can be reached at 686-3260 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at Twitter@SteveTarter and facebook.com/tartersource.