Building on tradition

Building teams demonstrate creative approaches in recycling old structures
August 11, 2010

What's old is new again. Building Design & Construction's 18th Annual Reconstruction Project Awards provide further evidence of the growing trend to extend the life of significant historic landmarks. A substantial percentage of this year's submissions had a significant impact on their communities. This year's entrants included educational facilities, hotels and office buildings that are bringing people together. Many are adaptive reuse and historic renovation projects. The majority of submissions were from east of the Mississippi River, and three of six winners were from Pennsylvania. The Ritz-Carlton, Philadelphia; the former Allegheny County Jail/Family Court in Pittsburgh; the Coronado Theatre in Rockford; and the Fulton Building in Pittsburgh won grand awards. Honorable mentions went to Princeton University's Blair and Buyers Residence Hall and Boston's Landmark Center.

Federal tax-credit program

A major factor behind the growth in volume of reconstruction projects over the last 25 years has been the Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program, administered by both the National Park Service (NPS) and the State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPO), in conjunction with the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Department of the Treasury. Many of this year's submissions qualified for the program, and for some it was the difference between a project that was realized or abandoned.

"The cost of redeveloping a building that is in compliance with the Secretary of the Interior's standards is more than it would be to tear it down and build anew," says Kenneth Geist, executive vice president of Denver-based Sage Hospitality Resources, the owner, developer and manager of the Fulton Building, one of the award winners. "Without the tax credits, more buildings, such as the Fulton, would not have been saved." The building received a tax credit of $7 million.

The Ritz-Carlton, Philadelphia, another award winner, received a $20 million tax credit on a $100 million project.

Generating over $22.7 billion in historic preservation activity since its inception in 1976, the program was designed to foster public-sector rehabilitation and promote economic revitalization of this country's landmarks. In 2000 alone, 1,065 projects were approved for the 20 percent tax credit.

Buildings that are privately rehabilitated and registered as certified historic structures by the National Register of Historic Places are eligible for the credit. The owner of the building must hold it for five full years after rehabilitation is completed, or pay back the credit. Commercial, industrial and agricultural facilities are eligible.

For more information, call the National Park Service at (202) 343-9594.

The editors of Building Design & Construction proudly present the 18th Annual Reconstruction Award winners.