OKC developers swear off historic tax credit review with latest acquisition
Officials from the Pivot Project, developers with a track record of doing historic rehabilitations of older buildings, say they’ve given up on seeking historic tax credits and National Register status as they look at options for their latest acquisition in Midtown.
The former Walter E. Allen Chrysler Plymouth dealership at NW 13 and Harvey Avenue has been home to Able Rents for the past 30 years while the west service garage half of the building was sold separately five years ago and renovated into offices.
Pivot Project Managing Partners Jonathan Dodson, Ben Sellers and David Wanzer have developed historic buildings, including the Tower Theatre on Uptown, the Arcade Building in Film Row and the former Sunshine Laundry Building at NW 1 and Classen Boulevard.
Dodson and Sellers said Monday they originally sought to buy the dealership for a tenant but that tenant dropped out.
“The more we looked at it, it’s a beautiful building and a good long-term play for our equity partners,” Dodson said.
The pair said they envision tearing out the concrete walls that were placed instead of the showroom glass back in the 1970s. But otherwise, they have no immediate plans.
Seeking historic tax credits and placement on the National Register of Historic Places is not a part of their plan.
“The historic tax credit process has become so cumbersome, we’ve decided we will not pursue historic tax credits until something changes,” Dodson said.
When asked to elaborate, Sellers only confirmed the backlash stems from projects completed in Uptown and Midtown.
Bob Blackburn, director of the Oklahoma Historical Society and whose oversight includes the state Historic Preservation Office that oversees the tax credits, responded they have 50 historic tax credit projects underway and most indicate they are happy with how the reviews have been handled.
“Some developers do not like to follow federal rules to get tax credits — but it’s taxpayer money,” Blackburn said. “Others have ideas that don’t conform to the ideals of historic preservation. If you want to do a rooftop bar on top of a historic structure, I say go for it. But without federal money. We follow the rules, and I will not apologize for that.”
Blackburn defended the tax credit process, noting they have played a key role in downtown Oklahoma City’s renaissance with recipients including the Skirvin Hilton and current redevelopment of First National Center.
“Historic tax credits are designed for a very specific market, not for every old building,” Blackburn said. “We don’t set the standards. The feds set the standards. We do the other half. And that has seemed to work since the 1970s.”