Historic tax credits could boost Gulfport projects

Historic tax credits could boost Gulfport projects

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Two major projects in Gulfport could benefit from the legislature's decision to renew the state's historic tax credit program.

The two big ticket items are Centennial Plaza on Highway 90 and the old Markham building downtown.

Gulfport is on a mission to transform these two valuable assets into projects that could help the city generate revenue.

Le Triomphe Property Group plans to spend more than $40 million turning Centennial Plaza into a mixed use development and getting access to historic tax credits is critical to the project.

"The developers have told us that really makes the difference in being able to make it work financially. They've made assurances to us that they're going to get going. We can't wait to see some dirt being turned," said Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes.

The legislature went back and forth during the 2016 session debating the historic tax credit program. They finally agreed to replenish the fund with $60 million over 5 years. When crafting the legislation, lawmakers put strict rules in place.

"The developers have to make applications for that and put the development authority on notice. They don't actually get the credits until the project is complete, so the good news for communities is that the investment has to be real, has to be made. They get no credit until it totally completed," according to Mayor Hewes.

The Markham building has been an eyesore in downtown Gulfport since Hurricane Katrina. The city has heard from some developers interested in the Markham and the availability of historic tax credits could make the difference in finally seeing some activity.

The program has been successful in the past across Mississippi.The reason it's needed for projects like the Markham building is because of basic economics.

"It's a lot more expensive to refurbish something than it is to build new and that's why the historic tax credits came about. A lot of buildings and properties were languishing. We've seen it work," Hewes said.

Federal historic tax credits could also be available for Centennial Plaza.

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