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MHA Directors Join Partnership

Posted by MacRostie Historic Advisors on Tuesday, May 19, 2015
MHA Directors Join Partnership

MacRostie Historic Advisors directors Albert Rex and Allen Johnson have joined founder William MacRostie as partners of the firm’s senior leadership team. Johnson has managed the MHA Midwest office in Chicago since 2006 and Rex has managed MHA Northeast office in Boston since 2008.

The two have successfully grown MHA’s presence in the Northeast and Midwest regions, overseeing recent notable projects such as Chicago’s famed Wrigley Building and the Filene’s Building in Boston. On a national level, the partners have managed historic preservation tax credit projects in 39 states including Alaska and Hawaii.

“Allen and Albert both bring decades of experience that time and time again have helped our clients’ projects become a reality by identifying the full range of available historic tax credits,” said William MacRostie, Senior Partner. “Historic rehabilitation is driving economic development all across the country, and Albert and Allen’s leadership will be invaluable as we continue to help those looking to take advantage of these opportunities.”

Johnson brings over 25 years experience in assisting developers, property owners, municipalities, and institutions meet historic preservation compliance requirements and obtain preservation tax incentives. Rex is a recognized figure in the New England historic preservation field and an author of the original legislation that created the Massachusetts Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit.

To learn more about all of the partners, visit the MHA website

Texas HTC to Help Revitalize Real Estate Industry

Posted by MacRostie Historic Advisors on Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Novogradac: Journal of Tax Credits

News, Analysis and Commentary On Affordable Housing, Community Development and Renewable Energy Tax Credits

February 2015 • Volume VI • Issue II

By: Bill MacRostie

For the past three decades, Texas has been the poster child for suburban sprawl more than any other state. In metropolitan areas such as Austin, Dallas and Houston, it’s not uncommon to find individuals who have round-trip commutes that top three hours. That’s more than a month spent in the car each year just driving to and from work. It’s easy to see why: As urban buildings fell into disrepair, the prospect of cheaper, new construction lured developers farther and farther away from city centers. And who could blame them? What incentive was there to rehabilitate older, more costly buildings?


Read the Full Article >>

This article first appeared in the February 2015 issue of the Novogradac Journal of Tax Credits. 

© Novogradac & Company LLP 2015 - All Rights Reserved

Notice pursuant to IRS regulations: Any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this article is not intended to be used, and cannot be used, by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code; nor is any such advice intended to be used to support the promotion or marketing of a transaction. Any advice expressed in this article is limited to the federal tax issues addressed in it. Additional issues may exist outside the limited scope of any advice provided – any such advice does not consider or provide a conclusion with respect to any additional issues. Taxpayers contemplating undertaking a transaction should seek advice based on their particular circumstances. 

This editorial material is for informational purposes only and should not be construed otherwise. Advice and interpretation regarding property compliance or any other material covered in this article can only be obtained from your tax advisor. For further information visit

"We have seen historic tax credit development come roaring back over the last six months...."

Posted by MacRostie Historic Advisors on Sunday, February 1, 2015

Soo Line Building

While our historic tax credit consulting practice did pretty well through the recession, we have seen historic tax credit development come roaring back over the last six months. We have at least 50 new projects signed just since October 2011, with virtually all of those pursuing state and federal historic tax credits. Predictably, many of these new jobs are in states with strong state historic credit programs, though a good number of projects are in the Chicago area where no state credit program exists. Notably, we've seen a huge increase in the number of hotel projects moving forward, with market-rate residential and office projects close behind.
Over the next month we will be featuring a sampling of our new jobs on Credit Worthy. As always, we look forward to hearing about and working with you on your next project.


From our Washington, D.C. office:
The 2.1 million square foot Sears warehouse building in Atlanta's Midtown is being converted in a $200 million mixed-use project to restaurants, apartments and office space by Atlanta developer Jamestown Properties. MHA is providing high-level consulting to Jamestown in its historic tax credit application process.

From our Boston office:
Rehabilitation of the 1916 Kenwyn Apartments in Springfield, Massachusetts for continued use as 27 units of affordable rental housing. The $3 million project by HAP Housing, a neighborhood non-profit company, will use federal and state historic tax credits.

From our Chicago office:
Conversion of the 1915 First National Bank – Soo Line Building (pictured above) in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota for 250 market-rate apartment units. The $61 million project is being undertaken by Village Green Companies using state and federal historic tax credits.

Do the new NPS Sustainability guidelines ease the task of integrating sustainability into the fabric of preserving historic buildings as intended?

Posted by MacRostie Historic Advisors on Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Review of New NPS Illustrated Guidelines on Sustainability - Albert Rex

National Park Service (NPS)

The Architectural Team (TAT) principals Bob Verrier, AIA, NCARB and Michael Binette, AIA, NCARB, recently published a detailed analysis on the new guidelines from the National Park Service (NPS). Their article raises the question: Do the new guidelines ease the task of integrating sustainability into the fabric of preserving historic buildings as intended? If so, why are owners and developers of historic structures more concerned than ever about varied interpretations by federal and state reviewers“ and how those could affect certifications for LEED and model energy codes?

As Binette and Verrier write in the online exclusive for EcoStructure magazine, design solutions for creating buildings that meet NPS review and green building certification demand experts with a command of the letter and spirit of preservation standards. We also need to bring project owners and developers the ability to anticipate, address, and argue issues raised by evaluators.

Having completed over 150 historic adaptive reuse projects over the firm's past 40 years, TAT is frequently sought out for their expertise by project owners and developers. MacRostie Historic Advisors has collaborated with TAT on numerous historic redevelopment projects, most recently the award-winning Bourne Mill Apartments in Tiverton, RI developed by EA Fish Associates, which involved the conversion of eleven separate buildings located on the abandoned mill complex into a new 165 unit mixed-income multifamily development.

BACKGROUND Preventing old buildings from being torn down is a key aim of historic preservation. We want to preserve our historic fabric so that future generations can experience the places and buildings that informed (our) past. In the past, preservationists have been accused of keeping buildings frozen in time, with a mission often seen as conflicting with the emerging green building movement, and its focus on new and energy-saving technologies.

This isn't the case today, write Binette and Verrier. Organizations that champion historic preservation and those that champion green building now largely embrace each other's missions. It's widely accepted that historic buildings are inherently sustainable, and that embodied energy is an important calculation used alongside evaluations of energy efficiency to determine overall environmental impact and carbon footprint, says Binette.

Yet the EcoStructure article identifies critical challenges that have arisen after new federal rules have been enacted. The National Park Service (NPS) guidelines – unveiled in April last year by the agency that oversees the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentive program “are meant to improve opportunities for saving historic structures while also making them lean and green," says Verrier in the article:

To bridge the gap between attaining historic tax credits and the criteria for LEED certification and similar green standards, savvy building owners and developers are working with experts well-versed in the preservation standards. These experts can help anticipate, address, and argue issues raised by evaluators, especially when they affect the sustainability or energy profile of the buildings – or worse, when they actually put a project's feasibility at risk.

According to the EcoStructure article, the NPS guidelines allow flexibility in how the unique conditions of individual buildings can be addressed so that preservation efforts can be aligned with today€™s energy codes and standards,” while it also “recommends certain paths to maintain a building's historical status and significance, and dissuades the use of others.

According to the NPS, the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives program – which offers a 20% tax credit for qualified historic preservation projects “ is the federal government's largest revitalization program, and has helped assemble $58 billion in private-sector investment for at least 37,000 building projects. Many states offer similar incentives that may add as much as 10% to the tax breaks.

The new NPS guidelines replace more specific, prescriptive guidelines. "But this new flexibility means that different reviewers“ from both federal and state agencies“ may have different opinions," says Binette. In the EcoStructure article, Binette and Verrier recommend various means for meeting the NPS guidelines while also meeting programs such as LEED. Examples of key building systems and products include fenestration and insulation.

Especially for older masonry buildings, adding insulation boosts energy efficiency of historic properties dramatically. However, Adding insulation invariably changes how a building responds to a host of internal and external environmental conditions, most notably moisture, Verrier writes. Condensation or moisture vapor can accumulate within the newly insulated building envelopes because they will be tighter than anticipated by the original designers and builders.

If project teams don't take these changes into account, say the authors, the historic structures can suffer from mold, spalling bricks, damaged façadds and other problems.

Again, however, with the proper engineering, an insulation upgrade is the singular most effective and least expensive way to improve energy efficiency. Also, new insulating technologies are being developed at a rapid clip. So far the NPS permits most, including certain treatments with spray-applied products that – once installed – could even with some effort ultimately be removed and the original surfaces restored. This, like other technologies, requires expertise and evaluation.

As for windows, preservationists tend to see window replacement as the least preferred solution. At the very least, window profiles should not be altered to retain the original architectural fabric.

LEED fails to acknowledge that historic windows are important features and that their energy efficiency can be upgraded, according to the Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG), published by the National Institute of Building Sciences. Employing storm windows, proper weatherstripping, and caulk, original window systems can achieve efficiency similar to that of new insulated glass window systems.

Verrier and Binette offer these ideas in the EcoStructure article:
While this is often true in most cases, there are projects which window replacement is necessary. Technically speaking, the ability to save a historic window over the long term is often very limited given the costs “which are often unavailable“ of de-leading and restoring the wood frames and sash and then maintaining them over the long term.

For buildings that have been abandoned or neglected for decades, replacement windows are often the only viable option. In these cases, the fine points such as what type of replacement window systems, or whether insulated glass is appropriate must be sorted out with reviewers to strike the right balance between energy savings and architectural authenticity.

The forward strides made by the NPS should be beneficial to developers interested in rehabilitating historic buildings. More flexible guidelines mean more access to tax incentives and more private investment.

But with the new guidelines come a greater need to plan, understand, and engineer projects that balance modern energy efficiency with the goals of historic preservation. Successful developers and owners are working with project teams that not only provide creative architectural and engineering solutions but that also can understand and navigate the increasingly complex issue regarding legislative, code, and tax nuances.

About The Architectural Team, Inc. - Founded in 1971, The Architectural Team, Inc. is a 60-person master planning and architectural firm that has grown through its design excellence and commitment to responsive and collaborative client relationships. The firm has developed a portfolio of distinctive design solutions for a broad range of building types and programs, and has earned more than 75 awards for design excellence. These include the new construction of large urban mixed-use developments, residential, commercial, hospitality, recreational, and academic facilities, as well as a national reputation in the area of historic preservation and adaptive reuse. The firm is located in the restored 1840s-era Commandant's House in Chelsea, Mass. Visit the firm's website here.

About the Blogger – Albert Rex is the Director of the Northeast Office of MacRostie Historic Advisors. Albert has been active in preservation and real estate in New England for the past 17 years. Read more about Albert here. Bourne Mill photo courtesy of © Nat Rea

"The cosmetic and content updates to the site make it well work a visit for those in the historic tax credit field."

Posted by MacRostie Historic Advisors on Tuesday, December 16, 2014

New NPS/TPS Website Worth a Look - Albert Rex

Cosmetic and Content Updates

The Technical Preservation Services (TPS) branch of the National Park Service (NPS), the division that manages the federal historic tax credit program, has recently expanded and improved their website. The cosmetic and content updates to the site make it well work a visit for those in the historic tax credit field.

The home page features a series of recent case studies on a loop and you can click on the studies to see additional information. Another nice feature is the “Latest Headlines” section that appears in the body of the homepage. This page provide a list of recent NPS speaking engagements and other news such as press releases, statistical updates, and regulation changes, which are also published in the Federal Register.

The site continues to provide access to full-text Preservation Briefs and other Preservation Tech Notes put out by TPS as well as information about Cultural Landscapes. This information is now complemented by a new section that specifically addresses the intersection of historic preservation and environmental sustainability. Here, users can access TPS’s recently released new sustainability guidelines as well as information about weatherization of historic buildings and examples of historic tax credit projects that have successfully combined historic preservation and sustainability.

The improvements to the TPS site are part of a comprehensive expansion and improvement of the NPS website, which also has some new bells and whistles worth mentioning. The new interactive mapping system on the “Find A Park” page, which allows a user to search by state for a variety of NPS-related information, includes a layer for historic preservation tax credit projects with specific information on completed tax credit projects throughout the country.

This feature is a useful tool for quantifying the economic impact of the federal historic credit, which is critical to promoting the credit in the current environment of tax credit reform.

Similar changes have been made to the National Register of Historic Places page, making it a much more interactive experience. NPS is currently working to plot National Register-listed properties on Google Earth, which is accessible under the “Database/Research” tab. The site also provides other useful information about the National Register process.

So, if you have not clicked over there, it's worth a look.

About the Blogger – Albert Rex is the Director of the Northeast Office of MacRostie Historic Advisors. Albert has been active in preservation and real estate in New England for the past 17 years. Read more about Albert here.