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The GOP plan to cut out the Historic Tax Credits could bring downtown Cleveland projects to a halt

Posted at 5:06 PM, Nov 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-15 18:50:08-05

All anyone has to do to see how tax credits have benefited the City of Cleveland is stand at the corner of East 9th Street and Euclid Avenue and look around. The Kimpton Hotel, Nine Apartments, Metropolitan Hotel and the new downtown Heinens were all built with help from tax credits.

"We have 100 projects in downtown Cleveland that have used tax credits since 1981," said Joe Marinucci, CEO & President of Downtown Cleveland Alliance.

The credits, which are on the chopping block in the new Republican tax plan, were actually made a permanent part of the tax code by Republican President Ronald Reagan. In 1986 Reagan said "our tax credits have made the preservation of our older buildings not only a matter respect for beauty and history but of economic good sense."

And that has played out, supporters of the credits argue, over the last three decades as studies show for every $1 spent on a credit there is a $1.20 return to the U.S. Treasury.

"That's calculated on a short-term base," Marinucci said. "Now if you go back and look at it over a period of time we actually track through the state program... about a $6 to $7 investment in our community as a result of the programs."

Hosting the Republican National Convention provided the city with a chance to show off the new Cleveland, one that is built on the bones of an older city celebrating the architectural gems that modern counterparts don't have. Many of the city's downtown apartment buildings are projects that relied on the credit to convert old buildings into living spaces.

Downtown Cleveland Alliance estimates that 4 out of 10 people living downtown live in a building that received historic tax credit funds.

Since 2000, downtown's population has grown by 51 percent to 15,000 and Marinucci believes with projects in the pipeline that number could grow to 20,000 in three years.

"Right now we're tracking 17 projects to get us there and 12 of those projects rely on tax credits as part of their financing structure," Marinucci said. "So there would be huge financial gaps in those dozen projects and really put into question whether or not we can continue the momentum that we've seen in downtown Cleveland."

The city has benefited not just in the saving and re-purposing of many of its old buildings but their occupancy has helped fuel new construction in places like the Flats East Bank and other high rise apartment projects that will soon be under construction.

Several members of the Ohio Congressional delegation, including Northeast Ohio Republicans Bob Gibbs and Dave Joyce, have voiced their opposition to the cuts, and have started petitions drives in an effort to sway the others.

"Still a lot of heavy lifting that we have to do in terms of making sure that people understand the value of the program and how important it is to a city like Cleveland," Marinucci said.