The first projects to benefit from a new $75 million state program aimed to help preserve historic buildings have been announced.

The Illinois Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program is being offered through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. IDNR officials said the program was designed to encourage private investment in the rehabilitation of historic properties in the state.

This is the first time Illinois has offered a historic tax credit program statewide, IDNR spokeswoman Rachel Torbert said.

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The program "gives an opportunity for people to take some historic buildings that still have a useful life, and rehabilitate them, renovate them, and make them a useful part of the community," she said.

A total of 24 sites in 11 different communities around Illinois had applied for the credit, the first four for the program have now been chosen. The first projects included a hotel site in Belleville, the former Cook County Hospital administration building, the old high school in Paris and the former nurses’ quarters at the Hines VA Medical Center.

Each tax credit is worth up to $3 million. The program limits the total credits to be given out annually to $15 million. A total of $75 million in tax credits will be available over the five-year life of the program.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Colleen Callahan said the tax credit program will revitalize communities.

"The substantial private investment required as part of the program will create skilled labor jobs in Illinois, stimulate local economies and bring underutilized buildings back on the tax rolls," she said.

Projections from IDNR anticipate the total private investment related to the four selected projects would be more than $578 million. The total amount of credits requested was about $47.6 million. IDNR officials said because of tax credit limits, a total of $9,750,000 in credits were assigned to the four projects.

Illinois joins 32 other states that offer statewide historic tax credits, according to the IDNR. Officials cited a study by Landmarks Illinois that said a state tax credit program could generate as much as $10.24 in economic impact per $1 of tax credit awarded during the construction phase of preservation projects. The credits are not awarded until after each project is "successfully completed meeting all program requirements." The Landmarks Illinois study said the economic impact in the first five years after project completion could be as much as $11.47 per $1 of the tax credit.

The INDR historic preservation tax credits are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Priority is given to buildings that are located in low-income census tracts, counties that border a state with a competitive statewide historic tax credit, federally declared disaster areas, buildings that were once owned by a government entity, and whose development partnership includes a community development entity, a low-profit organization, or a not-for-profit organization.

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