Historic tax credit bill vital for Birmingham, says state senator

By Barnett Wright

The Birmingham Times

The Pizitz building is nearly ready for its second life as a mixed-use development after a $70 million restoration. (Contributed photo).
The Pizitz building is nearly ready for its second life as a mixed-use development after a $70 million restoration thanks to a historic tax credit Sen. Waggoner seeks to renew. (Contributed photo).

State Sen. Jabo Waggoner of Vestavia Hills said he plans to re-sponsor an Alabama historic tax credit bill in the Legislature to rehabilitate abandoned buildings.

The Legislature convenes Feb. 7.

Waggoner wants to renew Alabama’s historic tax credit which has benefitted nearly two dozen projects in Birmingham and more than 50 statewide including the Lyric Theatre, Redmont Hotel and the Florentine Building.

The three-year program expired in 2016. The state legislature failed to renew the historic tax credit program before the end of last year’s legislative session.

“The historic tax credit bill is vital not only for Birmingham but this entire state,” Waggoner said. “It has transformed downtown Birmingham. You look at the [historic] Redmont [Hotel], you look at the Pizitz Building, you look at the Lyric and the list goes on.

“And it’s not just in Birmingham. We’re talking about Mobile, we’re talking about Montgomery, we’re talking about Huntsville, we’re talking about some buildings in rural Alabama that have to have the historic tax in order to bring back to life some of these buildings.”

Waggoner sponsored the bill in the past session, but it failed to gain traction in the Senate. “A couple of guys in the Senate had heartburn,” Waggoner said. “Bottom line it did not pass.”

A forensic audit company has been hired to look at all of the tax credits in the state of Alabama, said Waggoner, who estimates there are “probably 3 or 4 billion dollars worth of tax credits in the state.”

The audit is expected back later this month.

“If they come back and say the historic tax credit issue is a good thing, positive for the state of Alabama, I will re-sponsor the bill and I am very confident it will pass,” Waggoner said.

Re-establishing the tax credit is more than an economic incentive tool for rehabilitating and developing historic structures, Waggoner said.

“You don’t attract a Mercedes to come to Vance Alabama without a tax credit,” Waggoner said. “It’s all about industrial development and they need tax credits. And Alabama through the years has taken advantage of them.”

The program has been responsible for $384 million in private investment in Alabama since its implementation in 2013, according to a report released in January, 2016 from a Maryland-based accounting firm.