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Provision important to St. Augustine economy

The St. Augustine City Commission, during its meeting on Monday, November 13, unanimously passed Resolution 2017-54 voicing its opposition to a portion of the House Tax Reform Bill that would eliminate the Historic Preservation Tax Credit (HPTC). The bill is currently being considered in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Since inception, the HTC has rehabilitated more than 40,000 buildings, created nearly 2.5 million jobs and leveraged $117 billion in private investment nationwide.

The sponsor of the resolution, Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline, offered examples of many significant properties in St. Augustine. possible many projects in St. Augustine, including: the Casa Monica Hotel, the Record Building, the Monson Annex, the James Louis Colee House on Oneida St., and the John D. Oliveros House aka Centennial House on Cordova St.

On average, the credit leverages five dollars of private investment for every one dollar in federal funding creating highly effective public-private partnerships. The cumulative $24 billion cost of this program has been more than offset by the $28.6 billion in federal tax receipts generated solely by these rehabilitation projects.

There is no doubt that it is important to St. Augustine’s economy that this tax credit remain and not be deleted as part of the adoption of the bill. St. Augustine residents and businesses are urged to email U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio and U. S. Representative John Rutherford urging them to express their support to Congressional leadership and members of the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee insisting that the Historic Tax Credit be included in the final version of tax reform.

Casa Monica Hotel: A successful Story

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The Jacksonville Times-Union (12.06.99) reported on the upcoming opening of the Casa Monica Hotel following a two year, $17 million rehabilitation. The building was purchased by hotelier Richard Kessler in 1997 for $1.2 million.

Historical information on file: The original hotel opened in 1888 during the height of the Flagler Era in St. Augustine and was designed by architect Franklin W. Smith who pioneered the use of poured coquina concrete and the Moorish Revival style in the city. Henry Flagler purchased the hotel shortly after it opened which added to his existing portfolio of hotels and churches being constructed in the city.

Where the tax credit comes in: In 1968, the hotel was in many ways gutted and altered when it was renovated to become the St. Johns County Courthouse. Original windows, interior wood floors, plaster and lathe walls, and decorative ceiling finishes were removed and replaced or altered with dropped acoustical tile ceilings, terrazzo floors, and altered floor plan to allow for more office space and courtrooms. Fortunately, the primary exterior form remained and the building underwent a significant rehabilitation to return the building’s Moorish character and hotel use.

Consulting firm Historic Property Associates filed the federal tax credit applications for Mr. Kessler and was successfully granted the tax credit. Prominently located in downtown historic St. Augustine this building continues to be an economic engine in the city and represents a significant preservation project which benefitted from the Federal Historic Tax Credit at an estimated cost of a $3 million dollar tax credit. As a county courthouse and later as an unoccupied building, it was not generating property tax revenue and did not have a multiplier effect that heritage tourism sites generate.