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With Historic District status set, Broadway-Fillmore property owners have new tax incentive access

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Michael Mroziak, WBFO
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A three-year quest to gain Historic District status for a Buffalo East Side neighborhood has been fulfilled with the federal government joining in with local governments and approving the status. Now that the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood is officially a Historic District at the federal level, commercial and residential property owners there are eligible for a state and federal tax credit which can make restoration and rehabilitation of an older housing stock more affordable.

The effort to gain historic district designation began at the municipal level and earlier this year, the Common Council - at the urging of the city's preservation board - approved the measure. Standing outside the offices of Broadway Fillmore Neighborhood Housing Services, the organization's executive director Steve Karnath was joined by Common Councilmember David Franczyk, preservation Buffalo Niagara executive director Jessie Fisher and Historic East Side Neighborhood Initiative president Jim Serafin to announce that the National Park Service has certified Broadway-Fillmore as a Historic District.

What that does, they explained, was made a potentially valuable tax credit available to those looking to fix up properties within the district. State and federal historic tax credits, according to Fisher, have already been utilized to generate more than one billion dollars in investment and create an estimated 600 jobs.

"In the City of Buffalo alone, 578 historic homeowners have used the Historic Tax Credit to make much-needed improvements to their own homes," she said. "It's not just a program for commercial property owners. It's also a really valuable program for homeowners."

Karnath is one such homeowner who has utilized the program. He obtained a $6,000 tax credit to fix up his home in Buffalo's Elmwood Village. 

"One of the reasons we really wanted to support it here is if upper income neighborhoods can benefit from these tax credits, why shouldn't lower-income neighborhoods also be able to take advantage of the same type of credits?" Karnath said.

Up to 244 structures located within the designated district are eligible for the credit. Serafin pointed to the history of some buildings, including a former brewery and the home of the late Dr. Francis Fronczak, who was a physician whose roled in the first half of the 20th Century included Health Commissioner, member of the Red Cross Commission to Poland following World War I and a medical advisor to the Polish Mission to the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration after World War II. 

Broadway-Fillmore was, in a bygone era, the epicenter of Buffalo's rich Polish heritage but has since become more diversified and is now home to people of numerous national and ethnic backgrounds, including more recently-arrived immigrants. 

Those newer arrivals are among those rebuilding and restoring the neighborhood's housing stock, neighborhood advocates say, a housing stock which includes structures more than a century old.

A workshop will be hosted in the Broadway-Fillmore Historic District on January 12 to advise property owners how to acquire the Historic Tax Credit. Details, including the venue and start time, are to be announced at a later date. 

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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