historic preservation and economic development

Mt. Lebanon’s historic preservation board is moving forward with its long-range plan to use historic preservation not just as an end in itself but also as a boost to economic development. The board sponsored a workshop in March for about 50 business people.

The purpose of the workshop was to acquaint owners of historic income-producing properties (apartments, commercial buildings) with a benefit they became eligible for when Mt. Lebanon’s district of more than 4,000 properties was included on the National Register of Historic Places last year. Owners of buildings in the historic district  who invest in property improvements may be eligible for a 20 percent federal income tax credit. That credit is available through the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), provided the improvements are consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Guidelines for Rehabilitation. Non-contributing income-producing properties in the district are eligible for a 10 percent tax credit.

Bill Callahan
Bill Callahan

Presenting at the workshop were Scott Doyle and Bill Callahan of the PHMC. Also speaking was developer Jonathan Hill of Mt. Lebanon, who took advantage of the tax credit program to turn the former Fifth Avenue High School on Pittsburgh’s Lower Hill into upscale apartments with rents from about $750 to more than $2,000 per month.

Crowd at workshopFollowing the workshop, guests, including past and present historic preservation board members, volunteers who helped with the project, commissioners and staff, enjoyed a reception in celebration of the National Register Listing. Commissioner John Bendel thanked all for their efforts and toasted to “Mt. Lebanon’s past, present and future.”

Next up for the board will be working with Virginia Manor residents and consultant T & B Planning on developing design guidelines and a proposed ordinance that would create a historic architectural and review board (HARB) for the Virginia Manor neighborhood. Project leader Tracy Zinn will coordinate public outreach for the guidelines and ordinance, which if approved by the commission, would serve as a template for other neighborhoods that might like to become local historic districts with “rules.” The municipality awarded T & B the contract for $28,500. The process should conclude by early fall.

Photos by Susan Morgans