Report finds historic preservation has profound impact on economy

Monday, September 3, 2012 | 5:37 p.m. CDT; updated 1:16 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, September 4, 2012

*This article has been updated to include a description of the consulting firm Development Strategies.

COLUMBIA — Historic building preservation downtown has triggered profound economic benefits for the city, according to a report prepared for the city's Historic Preservation Commission.


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Renovated downtown historic buildings saw a 117 percent increase in property value from 2001 to 2011, and property tax revenue to local government from those properties increased 104 percent during the same period, according to the study done by Development Strategies, a St. Louis real estate and economic development consulting firm.* By comparison, property values and tax revenue from newer downtown structures jumped 19 percent and 12 percent, respectively, during that time. The report used data from the Boone County Assessors Office to reach that conclusion.

Investments in projects that tapped state historic preservation tax credits in the Columbia area totaled $88.8 million over the past decade. Every public dollar spent generated $4.40 in private investment, or a total of $72.4 million. The report also said that the preservation projects created 950 jobs and economic activity exceeding $200 million.

When preservation efforts from MU, Columbia College and Stephens College are factored in, the economic impact reaches $1 billion and 4,458 jobs.

"These institutions contribute to a large portion of spending because of their size, large historic building stock and demand for space, with an estimated $340 million spent to renovate and rehabilitate historic buildings and districts since 2002," the report said.

One example of a downtown project cited in the report is the Virginia Building/Strollway Center, which began in 2002 and carried a total cost of $4.9 million, $938,595 of which came from tax credits, according to Development Strategies. The 101-year-old building was modernized in 1965 with ribbed metal siding, smaller windows and lowered interior ceilings. The later renovation revealed historic architectural features and larger windows that had been hidden for years, according to the National Register of Historic Places.

Tom Atkins, majority owner of what is now known as the Atkins City Centre, said he is pleased with the results of the work. He said that the building's occupancy rate is high and that retail and office spaces have witnessed a "sea change" in layout.  

"We feel happy with what's happened," Atkins said. "It's changed the look of the downtown — no question," Atkins said. 

Atkins said the cooperation of groups such as the Columbia City Council, the City of Columbia, the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the District is key to the success of historic preservation work.

"What's good is everyone seems to be working for the same goal ... making (the downtown district) the best it can be," he said.

The study will be presented to the council at its meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Daniel Boone City Building. City Manager Mike Matthes wrote in a memo to the council that it's the first of its kind commissioned by a local government.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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