Process starts for historic registry nomination for Reynolds building

The Reynolds building in Winston-Salem.

The Reynolds building in Winston-Salem.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The process has finally begun for nominating the former R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. headquarters — downtown Winston-Salem’s architectural signature for 85 years — to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Forsyth County Historic Preservation Commission will review the 22-story building at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the Stuart municipal building at 100 E. First St. Two residential homes — the Hanes Chatham House at 112 N. Stratford Road and Waller House at 9186 Reynolda Road — also will be considered at the meeting.

Gaining the commission’s blessing is an early, but pivotal, step in the historic registry process. The Winston-Salem City Council also would vote on approving the request.

The meeting could signify new momentum on the potential sale of the building, which has been on the market since November 2009. The 313,996-square-foot building is valued at $12.3 million, according to Forsyth County tax records.

Greensboro developer Dennis Quaintance conducted several months’ worth of due diligence in 2012 before passing on a potential luxury hotel project. He said current room rates and demand were not strong enough to justify spending tens of millions of dollars on buying and renovating the building.

Reynolds American Inc. hired CBRE as its marketing agent in March 2013. Greg Wilson, executive vice president for the Triad CBRE office, could not be reached for comment about plans for the building.

Wilson said in March 2013 that the marketing will begin with a $15 million asking price and the building will be pitched to local, regional and national investors. He said the goal was a mixed-use project with retail on the ground floor and an undefined mixture of office and residential on the others.

Reynolds spokesman David Howard said he could not comment on projects under consideration. He said having the building on the national registry “can certainly help CBRE in marketing the building to prospective buyers.”

The nomination for the national registry was forwarded to the N.C. Historic Preservation Office on April 9. The local commission and city council have 60 days to respond before a National Register advisory committee meeting June 12.

“The meeting gives us a chance to say what we think of the nominations,” said Michelle McCullough, a project planner for the City-County Planning Division. “Of course, the Reynolds building carries significant architectural, structural and statewide significance.”

Mayor Allen Joines has said that the repurposing of the building “is one of the top priorities for this community.”

If the state historic preservation officer officially nominates the property, materials are sent to the keeper of the National Register at the National Park Service in Washington for a final decision.

Receiving the historic register certification would be a significant financial carrot to entice potential developers.

According to the N.C. General Statutes, there is an overall 30 percent state tax credit for rehabilitating income-producing historic structures in a county such as Forsyth. Also available is a 20 percent federal investment tax credit.

A recent local example of the attractiveness of historic tax credits is U.S. Bank investing up to $18 million and Blue Cross Blue Shield of N.C. up to $16 million toward the $100 million cost of building Wake Forest BioTech Place.

The decision to apply for the national registry now also could be spurred by the potential end of the state historic preservation tax credit at the end of the year. Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed budget for fiscal 2014-15 would include a historic preservation investment program that could cost the state less in taxes than the current program.

Howard said the potential sunset of the tax credit did not influence Reynolds’ decision.

“We have planned on pursuing listing the building on the register for the past several years,” he said.

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