NASHVILLE, TN– As the February deadline for property taxes looms, the Metropolitan Historical Zoning Commission (MHZC) announces the first two awardees of the new Historic Tax Abatement program, approved by Metro Council in 2021 to preserve important historic sites. The next application deadline for the program is July 1, 2023. Councilmember Syracuse filed the legislation based on state enabling legislation, T.C.A. § 67-5-218.

At the September 2022 MHZC meeting, the Commission approved the first round of Historic Tax Abatements for the Rhea Building at 166 Second Avenue North, damaged in the 2020 Christmas Day bombing, and the James Geddes Engine Company No. 6 at 627 President Ronald Reagan Way, which will receive abatements in the amount of $12 million and $1.4 million, respectively. Once their associated rehabilitation projects are complete and the values are reassessed, the value of the abatement will be deducted from the improved value for ten years.

The much-needed incentive program facilitates long-term investment in the city and its historic fabric. Its purpose is to provide temporary tax relief in exchange for the long-term preservation of important historic buildings (primarily commercial, multi-family and industrial zoned buildings) in the Metro area. Retention of historic buildings has economic and environmental benefits, especially for a city that is growing and developing at such a rapid rate. Metropolitan Trustee Erica S. Gilmore observed, “Nashville properties are experiencing pressures that have escalated values significantly, making it very burdensome for property owners to maintain their properties, and historic properties are no exception.“ Both Trustee Gilmore and Assessor Wilhoite helped create the administrative plan for this Historic Tax Abatement program.

Betsy Williams, owner and manager of the Rhea Building, agrees that some help is needed, saying that “as Nashville continues to grow and we see demolition of some of our most iconic buildings, I am hopeful that the Historic Tax Abatement will encourage developers to retain more of our historic built environment. It will certainly be a major contributor in helping us redevelop historic 2nd Avenue, after the Christmas Day 2020 bomb destroyed or damaged dozens of buildings in Nashville’s original neighborhood.”

To qualify for the program, properties must be locally designated, which provides long-term protection, be endangered, and not zoned R or RS. Property owners can maximize their return by “stacking” multiple incentives, taking advantage of such program as Historic Nashville, Inc’s façade easement and the Federal Historic Tax Credit Program. Nashville is only the second municipality in Tennessee to implement a local historic tax abatement program, the first being Rutherford County.