Durham County

NC official Kluttz takes tax-credit tour to American Tobacco complex in Durham

The sun shines brightly on the broad white roof of the Washington Building, left, next to the open green amphitheater area of the American Tobacco Campus.
The sun shines brightly on the broad white roof of the Washington Building, left, next to the open green amphitheater area of the American Tobacco Campus. hlynch@newsobserver.com

N.C. Secretary of Cultural Resources Susan Kluttz used a tour of the American Tobacco complex Monday to make a pitch for restoring the state’s historic-preservation tax credits.

“What a beautiful, beautiful example of what I am trying to get the word out about,” Kluttz said, standing in the boiler room at the remodeled cigarette factory in downtown Durham.

Kluttz said she is going all over the state – “every city and town that will invite me” – promoting the tax credits as an economic development tool and encouraging citizens to press legislators to reinstate the tax credits.

Preservation tax credits were “critical” in the $167 million American Tobacco project, said Michael Goodmon, vice president for real estate with Capitol Broadcasting, which redeveloped the complex.

Before they expired, preservation credits had been used in 90 of the state’s 100 counties, she said, on projects that totaled $1.6 billion in private investment. “There is not a community I go to that cannot use these. ... Particularly in the small, rural areas in North Carolina.”

A former Salisbury mayor, Kluttz said reinstatement is being advocated by a “coalition” including local-government organizations, real-estate businesses, developers, bankers and preservationists, which has an online petition at nando.com/w4.

“We’re really positioning the effort as an economic development issue as opposed to a special interest,” said Wendy Hillis, executive director of Preservation Durham.

That is a change from last year’s unsuccessful efforts to keep the credit program from expiring. “It’s having different partners ... so that it’s not the preservation groups that are leading,” Hillis said.

The Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce arranged for Kluttz to make American Tobacco a stop on what she called an “awareness tour” to promote the tax credit program, which expired at the end of 2014.

Reinstating the program is one of the Durham chamber’s priorities for the current legislative session, said chamber Vice President John White, “because of the significance it plays here.”

According to the chamber, since the mid-1970s 81 redevelopment projects have been completed in Durham using federal and state historic preservation tax credits, with a total private investment of $366 million.

“And there are probably 90-some projects around the city that could do the same thing” if the credits are reinstated, said Durham Mayor Bill Bell.

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