The design gears were turning with a rapid elaboration of the building components. The basic organization and flow of the space program within the structure were reasonably established. More definition was needed for some of the more technical spaces that included moot courtrooms and teaching environments. Further confirmation and fine tuning of adjacencies was also in order. The design team was happily on their way and immersed in drilling down to new levels of detail within individual spaces.
While the design team was busily evolving and unfolding the creative solution for the architecture, there was a more pressing matter that was being taken up by the development team and owner; financial feasibility. In parallel with the design effort, we were looking at cost implications and funding.
A major source of funding could come from historic tax credits. There are Federal Investment Tax Credits for historic preservation to the tune of 20%. At the time there were also matching state historic tax credits that could account for another 20%. While the tax credits could only apply to eligible expenditures that were part of the project, a 40% savings could make or break the project. The Federal Government is very helpful in providing guidelines and publications. A key document is “The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties with Guidelines for Preserving, Rehabilitating, Restoring and Reconstructing Historic Buildings.”
The Fred Jones Manufacturing Plant was not currently on the National Register for Historic places so this would be the first step in a two-step process to qualify for the tax credits. This process typically starts with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). Properties are considered for the national register based upon age (typically greater than 50 years), integrity and significance. A preliminary determination can be achieved by working with SHPO. There are helpful “fundamentals for registration” on-line.
Once part 1 is achieved, then part 2 of the application is the next step to initiate review of the rehabilitation project for certification purposes. A good place to start is with the “20% Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit” document. Historic Preservation even though specific a certain approach typically becomes the generic term for all the ways we address historic structures. The purpose of the tax credit is to serve as an incentive to keeping our historic structures around by giving them continued use through rehabilitation.
A major design challenge was going to be dealing with the exterior envelope. We had an extensive portion of the exterior walls that were glass consisting of steel casement windows with single pane glass (see top photo). In today’s world, this is an extremely energy inefficient envelope. However, historically it is regarded as a significant original element of the building that would need to be preserved; thus the major design challenge.
The overall funding mechanism was going to be through a lease-back financial package where the School of Law would essentially make lease payments and after a certain period of time (upwards to 20-30 years) would own the building outright. While design was progressing so were the negotiations on the financial package. It ended reaching a point where the financial burden outweighed the benefits as taken into consideration by the university. This ultimately led to the plug being pulled on this saga of a downtown opportunity for the OCU School of Law.