Oregonian Letter to the Editor, 1-31-03
WAREHOUSE TAX INCENTIVE MADE SENSE
Thursday, as I walked through the old campus at Yale University surrounded
by exquisite historic buildings, I was impressed. Instead of tearing down
Harkness Tower or Sterling Tower, Yale's stewards recognized that the
Yale of today is defined by its past.
Lin's "Women's Table" in front of the library gave me a glimpse
of how the stewards are carving out a new direction by examining the past.
I thought about Steve Duin's arguments in The Oregonian against tax incentives
for rehabilitated historic buildings ("Should we preserve historic
tax breaks?" Jan. 19). Oregon will grow rich in significance and
beauty if we continue to preserve history by saving those buildings. At
the same time, we can keep workers employed and shoot steam into our sputtering
economy. Tax incentives do both.
historic Marshall-Wells Warehouse, designed by Daniel Burnham (one of
America's most influential architects), is a perfect example. It served
as the Western distribution center for the largest hardware company in
the country during the early1900s.
years ago the Marshall-Wells building, listed on the National Historic
Register, had a leaking roof, rotted-out windows and useless electrical,
plumbing and heating systems. Next to a noisy freeway, it sits in an undeveloped
part of the Pearl District said to be "outside," though it really
isn't. There was only one hope for the building: a small property tax
of this incentive, I spent $35 million creating and selling the new living
spaces, with $18 million going directly to wages to employ hundreds of
people. They paid estimated taxes of $7.5 million. My restoration team
spent an additional $4.5 million in taxes, for a total of $12 million.
An additional $17 million was put directly into purchasing materials,
most of which were bought or produced locally.
Duin's formula, there was an actual gain of $5 million in taxes. Further,
we'll get a large increase in tax revenue in 131/2 years, when the property
is worth $50 million. These taxes are not all property taxes, but split
between our federal, state and local governments, it is all for the public
important, no one would have taken the chance on that risky building without
the tax incentive to future homeowners. The value of that restoration
was like luring a company to locate here because it would pump $35 million
into our local economy.
The Marshall-Wells building is a perfect example of what can be done with imagination and creative planning. It was erected as an empty warehouse and today it is a historic treasure.
life is filling the original structure with people instead of hardware.
At the same time, it has provided a spark to our economy. Our state should
have more small incentives that bring great gains.
Robert Ball is a historic preservationist and real estate investor active in Portland civic affairs.