The Historic Savannah Foundation sees their position as one of influence. If they can work on saving a few properties here and there, it can motivate private investors to do the same. Besides private investors, those with interest in renovation can find historic Savannah properties for less and bring them back from the dead either as investments or private residences.
The Historic Savannah Foundation’s Lincoln Street initiative began in the Thomas Square Streetcar Historic District, which was one of four different historic districts in Savannah that was explored for a study on the economic impact of restoration. The study highlighted the benefits of preservation on residents and businesses. In order to take a closer look at the benefits of preservation, the foundation hired the PlaceEconomics firm’s principle of consulting to study the role of historic neighborhoods. The study discovered that preservation of historic buildings leads to more jobs, better property values and further tax revenue to benefit public services.
In some cases, the historic downtown properties have interest to investors, not just as residences, but as potential businesses. That was the case with one Kevin Ryan, who went into the restoration of a 20th century warehouse located on Indian Street. The building was in the downtown Landmark Historic District and it happened to fit Ryan’s idea of a micro-brewery. Various other parties interested in the building mostly wanted to demolish it. Because it ended up being the rehabilitation of a historic property, it also qualified for tax credits.
Similar restoration projects in historic Savannah that have qualified for tax credits have led to the creation of around 169 jobs and labor income worth $7.5 million per year over the last 15. Some investors have said that the tax credit aspect has significantly influenced their decision to buy abandoned Savannah homes for sale in historic areas. Lonnie Coulter is one of these and he bought a late 1800s era house on East Park Avenue, partially due to the tax credits and partially due to wanting to save a piece of Savannah’s history. The house was a Victorian style structure with turrets and stained-glass windows. The house had been vacant for years before Coulter bought it and had fallen into extreme disrepair.
The historic districts in Savannah make up about eight percent of the land in the city and about 15 percent of the structures on the land. The districts also include 16 percent of Savannah’s population and 31 percent of the jobs in the city. Up to 74 percent of jobs in educational services are in historic districts and 57 percent of arts and entertainment jobs. Not only that, but the rates of appreciation on historic district buildings have averaged over 50 percent since 1999. Because of this higher appreciation rate in the historic districts, an additional $10 million in tax revenue is brought in every year.