Bill to give more incentive in historic building renovations

Downtown La Crosse is filled with historic buildings, and it can take a lot of time and money to renovate and restore them, but a new bill could help provide more of an incentive for building owners.

Some say a boost in credit could mean a boost in the overall success of downtown La Crosse.

Take a walk in downtown La Crosse, and you’ll probably notice the look of the buildings is a big part of what makes it special.

“You can’t build an old historic building and get the same types of aesthetics that you do in a historic building,” said Marvin Wanders, of 360 Real Estate Solutions.

Over the years, Wanders has helped renovate about eight historic buildings in the city that are now home to apartment lofts, popular restaurants, coffee shops and hair salons.


While there are many benefits to preserving the historic feel, Wanders said the process isn’t an easy one.

“Historic buildings are a completely different animal than traditional greenfield developments where you start with a clean state,” said Wanders. “It’s much more challenging. It’s more costly.”

Developers can apply for the historic preservation tax credit to help with renovations.

If they qualify, they can receive a 10 percent tax credit from the state and an additional 20 percent from the federal government.

Now, a new bill would increase the state credit to 20 percent, matching the federal credit.

Wanders said that’s significant help

“It’s really the difference between doing the project and not doing a project,” said Wanders.

There are currently more than 100 historic buildings in downtown that would qualify for the tax credit.

Robin Moses, of Downtown Mainstreet Inc., said if more developers take advantage of it, the impact can be seen in multiple areas of the city.

“It really creates a healthier downtown, because then people are coming downtown to shop,” said Moses. “They’re coming downtown to eat (and) to have some fun. So they’re coming down to do some playing and then also to live, so that’s really what we want.”

To qualify for the tax credit, the building has to be designated on the National Register of Historic Places or have been built before 1936.

If passed, the bill would put Wisconsin’s historic preservation tax credit at the same rate as neighboring states Minnesota and Michigan.

The bill passed in the Assembly with a vote of 88 to 4. It now heads to the Senate.