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Developers worried about expiring state tax credit for historic development

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- A growth industry for North Carolina for almost two decades may no longer be able to depend on the state for a tax break.

Lawmakers seem likely to allow the historic preservation tax credit to expire at the end of the year. The 20-30 percent discount on businesses, mills and homes designated as historic has helped spur development in Greensboro and across the Piedmont.

Developers fear not having that discount could bring some projects to a stop.

“I think it has the potential of jeopardizing some of our properties in downtown Greensboro for immediate development,” said Dawn Chaney.

Chaney Properties is currently revamping the Book Trader building on South Elm Street. A restaurant and apartments are set to open at the beginning of the year.

While that project is still on schedule Chaney believes others just in the planning stage, like the Cascade Saloon, may not be able to move forward because of the expiring tax break.

“We've got to save it and the tax credits would be imperative for that development,” said Chaney.

Outside of Greensboro, the state tax credit has helped with a number of revitalization projects from the Innovation Quarter in downtown Winston-Salem to smaller scale projects in Burlington, Kernersville and Asheboro.

“None of these historic buildings that are renovated will ever move to Mexico,” said Benjamin Briggs, executive director of Preservation Greensboro. “None of the building investments in Winston-Salem or High Point will ever move to China -- they are investments that are made in our community and they benefit the tax base and create jobs.”

According to the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office, state tax credits have prompted more than $1.36 billion in private investments since 1998, the first year of the incentive. That money includes the cost of construction, new jobs and community investment.

The cuts are part of a widespread change in income tax law that eliminates several tax breaks that had been in place for years.

Briggs said a legislative committee studying the impact of the tax credits could recommend their reintroduced or come up with an alternative for law makers.

“Hopefully this study in the next couple of months will show that to the satisfaction of government officials and hopefully they will reinstate the program it was,” said Briggs.