New incentives could spur restoration

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 2, 1999

When Mimi Miller got her tax bill after restoring both the Wensel House and Cover to Cover bookstore, she said she nearly had to be picked up off the street. To ease the shock for other downtown business owners, the Historic Natchez Foundation is working with the city to develop a revitalization incentive program which includes an ad valorem tax freeze of up to seven years.

&uot;With the convention center coming, there is a greater necessity than ever to spruce up downtown so that people who come to visit that facility don’t see downtown as it is now,&uot; said Miller, director of preservation and education for the Historic Natchez Foundation.

The program would have three parts:

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n The tax abatement, which will freeze ad valorem taxes (except school taxes) for up to seven years depending on the amount of money spent on the restoration. The minimum investment would be $25,000, with 25 percent spent on the facade of the building. Areas eligible for tax freezes would be commercially zoned areas of the On-Top-of-the-Hill and Under-the-Hill historic districts. The tax abatement program would have to be approved by the board of aldermen.

n Low interest loans, which local banks Britton & Koontz, Concordia Bank & Trust, Deposit Guaranty and United Mississippi have agreed to offer. The rate, fixed for five years, would be 2.5 points below prime.

n Historic income tax credits, a program already available for income-producing property that is on the National Register or is a contributing structure in a National Register Historic District. Up to a 20 percent tax credit can be taken on the renovation work that is completed on the building. Miller said the Historic Natchez Foundation will help property owners fill out the paperwork for the tax credit.

Miller said freezing the taxes will not hurt the local economy because the buildings granted the tax abatement will likely produce more sales tax.

City Planner David Preziosi called the program &uot;a win-win situation.&uot; Each application for tax abatement would be reviewed for approval by the planning department, he said. Approved applications which meet all of the qualifications would then need only ratification by the board of aldermen.