Cumberland Times-News

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February 12, 2014

Tax credit could help develop downtown

CUMBERLAND — Bills introduced by local legislators aim to help make development of multi-story structures in downtowns across the state more attractive.

The bills would be useful to cities like Cumberland as well, said Sen. George Edwards, who has introduced a bill in the Senate. A companion bill has been introduced in the House by the Allegany County delegation, consisting of delegates Wendell Beitzel, Kevin Kelly and LeRoy Myers Jr.

The idea for the bill came after a request from Cumberland Mayor Brian Grim and members of the city council, Edwards said. By making the bill applicable statewide, there’s an increased chance for passage, Edwards said. The bill could help areas throughout the state with the often difficult task of marketing upper stories of commercial buildings, Edwards said.

“You have a lot of those buildings in Cumberland,” Edwards said. “The intention is to get those occupied and fill up the empty space,” Edwards said. More people living and working downtown would improve business for existing retail and restaurant businesses in downtown areas, Edwards said.

The bill allows “the governing body of Baltimore City, a county or a municipal corporation to provide a property tax credit against the county or municipal corporation property tax imposed on an existing commercial structure in which a certain investment is made to allow for adaptive reuse of the upper stories of the structure,” according to the language of the bill.

That would apply, for instance, to converting the use of a building to office or apartment space, Edwards said. It’s not as common to have multi-level retail operations, such as a department store, as in the past, Edwards said.

Investments qualifying for the credit would include elevators, sprinkler systems, doors and other features needed to adapt the structure.

The tax credit would be equal to 50 percent of the amount of the investment and granted over a 10-year period in equal amounts, according to the language of the bill.

The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee has a hearing on the bill scheduled Feb. 19. The House Ways and Means committee has a hearing scheduled Feb. 20.

Matthew Bieniek can be contacted at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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