Tax credit for historical buildings would ease restoration costs

20 percent tax credit offered

Many people come to La Crosse to see the beautiful and historical downtown area.

While several of the buildings are more than 150 years old, some have aged better than others.

Now the owners of these historical buildings could be getting some help to restore them to their original beauty, which city officials say could have a big economic impact.

The state started offering a tax credit last year to the owners of these historical buildings to help with renovation costs.

Then, just last month they scaled back on that incentive because of higher than expected costs. Now, only after three weeks, a moratorium has been partially lifted making way for many downtown La Crosse building owners to start getting the help again.

Downtown La Crosse has quite a bit of history, but some buildings are showing their age. Which is why when the state began offering a 20 percent tax credit business owners in La Crosse were eager to give their buildings a face-lift.

“When the moratorium was put into place there was some disappointment from some downtown building owners because some of these projects had already been started, some were in the planning stages and we have several more that were looking into it,” executive director of Downtown Mainstreet Robin Moses said.

Moses said there were six to 10 businesses actively looking at improving their building before the moratorium. She said all are excited to continue with their projects and hopefully receive the tax credit.

“These historical tax credits often times are necessary to get these projects done financially, president of Bakalars Sausage Mike Bakalars said.

Bakalars said he is excited the moratorium has been lifted. His company’s former building is in need of a lot of work after the 2011 tornado before it can transition into apartments as originally planned.

“A lot of these historical projects require a lot of extensive renovation (and) new construction and these type of tax credits provide that type of financial input to help these projects get over the hill,” Bakalars said.

Local developer Mike Kiel knows the benefit of the tax credit. He has used the money to improve both the Doerflinger building on 4th and Main streets and the Mueller photography building on 5th Street.

“A lot of times with these historic restoration projects the difference between financial sense and not making financial sense are the historical tax credits,” Kiel said.

Mayor Tim Kabat said these types of projects are what help grow the tax base in our city.

“It’s going to cause a lot of dollars again to be leveraged repurposing these historical structures, adding to the tax base, adding jobs, all that,” Kabat said.

Before Bakalars can apply for the tax credit they need to get their old building to be considered historical. Buildings need to be a historical site that was built before 1936 to be considered for the tax credit. It was built it 1908.

The federal government also provides a 20 percent tax credit to make improvements to historic buildings.

So, some could now receive up to a 40 percent reimbursement.