MARYLAND - With the legislative session over, a lot of changes are on the way to Maryland, if they are not underway already.
One big step – the reauthorization of the Sustainable Communities Tax Credit Program, which helps fund the restoration of historic buildings so they can be used commercially. For some local cities, it's been a game changer for downtown revitalization.
"Were thrilled that the legislature re-upped on the program," says Natalie Chabot, director of Cambridge Economic Development. "We're just a big supporter and a good example of why it works in Maryland."
The program provides income tax credits to projects that repair and reuse historic buildings, an incentive that many took up in 300-year-old downtown Cambridge.
"We've had commercial buildings on High Street, Race Street, Muir Street, and Poplar Street," says Chabot. "They all had a total overhaul and look like the time period in which they were built, which is around the 1910, 1920's time period."
This includes the popular High Spot Restaurant, which took over an old diner that had been closed since 1998. This year, $120,000 will go to an apartment building on 404 Race Street, which is expected to bring at least eight new jobs.
"It's a commercial building in our downtown, it will be residential on the upper floors and some kind of retail commercial business on the first level," says Chabot.
Leaky Pete's Oyster and Wine Bar already occupies part of the Race Street building.
"We'll have a nice new awning onto the street which will have our logo on it, and I think give us a presence on the street where people can find us," says Robyne Feehley, owner of the bar. "Right now we're a small little entrance and it's hard when people walk by to notice that we are here, so that will be a huge improvement for our business."
For the first time, the reauthorization will also include a new small commercial credit category that permits owners of small businesses to receive tax credits. The small commercial category reportedly encourages rehabilitation projects that cannot compete for the larger, existing commercial credit, which can include new roofs, façade improvements, rehabilitation of apartments above businesses for rental income and more.
For places like Cambridge, it's just another opportunity to take advantage of.
"It's helping people who may have otherwise not been able to do it on their own realize some of their dreams, and hopefully settle here and start to prosper up their business," says Feehley.
"We absolutely love to see people invest in the historic structures we have it's what makes us unique,' says Chabot. "We're not anywhere USA, we're an authentic Chesapeake waterfront town, and this program has allowed us to maintain our historic fabric of this wonderful waterfront community."
For more projects across Maryland, or for more information on the program, visit the Maryland Department of Planning website.
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