Study shows bill would create hundreds of construction jobs by repurposing historic buildings statewide

Springfield, Ill.—An economic study prepared by the University of Illinois Springfield for Landmarks Illinois demonstrates that a statewide historic tax credit would help rehabilitate dozens of historic buildings, pay for itself without a hit to the state budget, and create hundreds of jobs across the state.  The study prompted the introduction of HB4533 by Representative Frank Mautino (D-Spring Valley) on February 4, 2014, to support the creation of a statewide historic tax credit. Its counterpart, SB336, sponsored by Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), passed the State Senate on April 24, 2013, with a resounding vote of 46-8.

Illinois joined more than 30 states nationwide when it passed a law in 2011 to spur job creation through a localized historic tax credit.  The credit is available for private developers repurposing historic buildings in five “River’s Edge” cities (Aurora, East St. Louis, Elgin, Peoria and Rockford), but it is due to expire in 2016 and is not available to cities statewide.  A statewide historic tax credit, according to Landmarks Illinois’ study “Economic Development Opportunities from an Illinois Historic Tax Credit,” would generate as much as $10.24 in economic impact per $1.00 in historic tax credit award during the construction phase alone, and up to $11.47 per $1.00 in the first five years after completion.  The state would capture income and sales tax revenues before it allocates the tax credit and only does so if the historic rehabilitation project meets all guidelines leaving the private developer and investors to bear the risk. Illinois municipalities would also collect increased property taxes from undervalued buildings that are often not contributing much or anything to support the local economy. 

“Our study shows that historic rehabilitation is good for the economy.  Thirty-two states in the country have state historic tax credit programs, including neighboring states such as Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Kentucky.  We are the ‘hole in the donut’ in our region and developers and investors will continue to choose to invest in those states over Illinois until we too can provide the gap incentive to make construction possible.  We are thankful to Senator Manar and Representative Mautino for introducing legislation that addresses this opportunity,” said Bonnie McDonald, president and CEO of Landmarks Illinois, a preservation education and advocacy group that with the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Illinois helped initiate the legislation.

“This tax credit will have a positive impact in communities, especially small communities, throughout the state,” Senator Manar said. “You can drive through Main Street in any small town in my district and find at least one historic structure that needs to be rehabilitated. Encouraging private investment in our aging downtowns not only positively impacts the community through job creation and increased property value, but it also increases intrinsic value by restoring something historically unique and important to a community.”

Rehabilitating older buildings is both a “green” choice, because it prevents an otherwise usable building from being deposited in a landfill, and a jobs creator.  “It has been demonstrated time-and-time again that rehab creates more local jobs because it is more labor-intensive work.  In rehabilitation, more of the budget goes toward labor than materials, versus new construction.” said Dan Hohl, Government Relations Director of AIA Illinois. 

Working together, Landmarks Illinois and AIA Illinois continue to garner legislative support for a statewide historic tax credit program.  Other supporting organizations include the Illinois Association of Realtors, the Illinois Bankers Association, Downtown Quincy, Renew Moline, Rock Falls Tourism, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

To see the “Economic Development Opportunities from an Illinois Historic Tax Credit” study, go to

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