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Historic renovations may qualify owners for grants, tax incentives

Financial assistance is available to property owners who want to improve historic property.

That was the message of a Downtown Revitalization Workshop Tuesday night in Andalusia co-hosted by Andalusia’s Downtown Redevelopment Authority (DRA) and the Covington Historical Society.

DRA chairman Mike Jones explained that the local authority has a private-public matching grant program for improving building facades.

Funded with contributions from Wal-Mart, Covington County Bank, Regions Bank and the City of Andalusia, the grant program will provide as much as $5,000 in matching funds for the projects. Grants have been awarded to CJ’s Grille, the Masonic Lodge, and Uptown Salon.

Applications are available in city hall.

Chloe Mercer, tax incentives coordinator for the Alabama Historical Commission, told the approximately 100 people in attendance that property and income tax breaks are available for restoration.

To qualify, she said, owners must follow the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. She recommended that property owners consult the Alabama Historical Commission before beginning a project. Basic guidelines include keeping the new use compatible with historic use, retaining distinctive features, repairing rather than replacing historic components.

Both Mercer and Joe Donofro of Donofro and Associates Architects shared before and after photographs of restored buildings in Alabama. Donofro said he has worked for a number of years with Andalusia’s John Tisdale on the historic Prestwood Building.

“You have a great inventory of historic buildings that could be used for economic development purposes,” he said.

Grant writer Carla Powell of Cornerstone Resources said the USDA has both loans and grants available, and recommended that non-profits especially look at the USDA facilities funding.

Copies of information presented is available at city hall.

Uptown Salon is among the businesses that have taken advantage of a local grant program.