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DETROIT-Historic preservation of existing buildings is a valuable alternative to demolition of old sites and new construction, according to a recent study released by a Clarkston, MI-based group known as the Michigan Historic Preservation Network. The study, commissioned by the network, was funded through Michigan’s State Historic Preservation Office, and conducted by Clarion Associates, a land-use and real estate consulting firm based in Denver.

The rehabilitation of historic buildings has had a $1.7-billion impact on Michigan’s economy, the report says, generating more than 20,000 jobs, $53 million in state taxes and $31.9 million in local property taxes.

There are two benefits of renovating an older facility rather than building new, says Janine Saputo, interim executive director of the network.

“Many of these older buildings are still usable, and their re-use is much more valuable than filling a landfill with their brick and mortar,” Saputo tells GlobeSt.com. “Also, these buildings give us a connection to our past, one that pleases the eye and improves local property values.”

The study examined the direct expense on building rehabilitation of projects using three federal rehabilitation tax credits, Michigan’s Historic Preservation Tax Credit program and the Historic Preservation Fund.

The federal program gives a developer credit of up to 20% of the cost to rehabilitate a historic property for commercial use. More than 611 projects have been completed using this program in Michigan in the last 24 years.

The state program has only been around three years, but has already improved 205 projects in the state, Saputo says. This program offers a 25% tax credit.

The Historic Fund, paid for by the National Park Service, has rebuilt 441 state projects since 1971, mostly using grants.

William Anderson, director of Michigan’s Department of History, Arts and Libraries, says the study makes a clear point.

“Historic Preservation is about smart growth,” Anderson says. “It’s about urban revitalization and improving property values. It’s one of the most important tools we have in our toolbox, and we need to learn how to use it more.”

To determine an effect on property values, Clarion studied five communities of different sizes and types throughout Michigan. In all of them, property values within designated historic districts have appreciated at higher rates than those in similar, nearby neighborhoods–in several cases twice as much, Saputo says.

“Rehabilitation is valuable to our economic growth,” she says. “We don’t want to lose where we came from.”

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