The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Old buildings get a new face and developers get richer

Mar 4, 2002

The state of Maryland, in cooperation with the Maryland Historical Trust, has gotten into the habit of awarding big tax credits to wealthy developers for renovating old buildings, turning them into commercial projects.

When a restoration project is approved by the Maryland Historical Trust, the developer receives a tax credit from the state equal to 25%, that is, one-fourth of the project's cost. In addition, commercial projects get another 20% of the cost of the renovation from the federal government. Small wonder developer David Hillman brags that the Hecht Company building on Howard Street, renovated by his firm, is "The house that tax credits built."

In 1997, the first year this tax credit program was in effect, 2 ½ million dollars was awarded to 13 projects. It’s been growing ever since. Last year 74 million was awarded to 219 projects.

Recently – given the state’s so-called “budget crunch” – there have been proposals to cap the amount of money that can be credited for each renovation project. But this tax credit program will continue.

Contrast this to the proposals of Maryland’s governor to cut money for drug programs and lead abatement programs, withhold funding for a planned expansion of aid to public schools, and delay pay raises which were owed state workers.

It's all a question of priorities. As the tax credit program shows, the priorities of state politicians are with wealthy businessmen.