According to councilman Sterling Beck, the city council last night approved a grant program to help cover impact fees for people hoping to redevelop historic buildings.
Among other things, the program presumably should help local developer Greg Soter turn an old church into apartments and deal with prohibitively expensive impact fees. As my colleague Genelle Pugmire wrote in August, Soter’s project was put on hold after he was slapped with more than $130,000 in unexpected fees.
In an article posted this morning, Genelle also explained the requirements for receiving grant money:
The council added a stipulation that could still make Soter’s project prohibitive. For Soter, or any developer, to receive the grant money, his building must meet specific requirements. The building must be in the Downtown 1 or Downtown 2 zones, be remodeled for multi-family dwelling while keeping the historical look to the building and must be registered and certified with the Provo Historic Landmarks Commission. The Fourth Ward Chapel meets all but the landmarks certification.
This new program is a major victory for Provo. As I wrote in August, developers sometimes face economic incentives to demolish historic buildings. And though I don’t expect every old building to survive, some absolutely should be preserved. Soter’s project is a perfect example of how to make that happen.
Now after years of hit and miss historic preservation, the city is finally providing the economic incentives to make redevelopment of larger buildings more realistic. The program also signifies a recognition that buildings, historic or otherwise, influence more than just their owners and occupants; they’re community fixtures and the community is now investing in its cultural assets.
On a somewhat related note, KSL reported yesterday that a historic high school in South Salt Lake would be turned into a movie studio. That’s a big economic victory for South Salt Lake, but much like the church-apartment project above it demonstrates that preserving historic buildings often requires creativity and repurposing.