Tacoma’s historic commercial property owners have new option to finance repairs

Staff writerJuly 11, 2014 

Hilltop

The Kellogg-Sicker building, site of the former Browne's Star Grill, and the Pochert Building on Martin Luther King Way are in the hands of a private developer now. It’s buildings this size that are the target of a new City of Tacoma loan program intended to help owners of historic properties keep them in shape.

KATHLEEN COOPER — Staff Writer Buy Photo

Owners of historic commercial buildings in Tacoma now have one more tool as they try to make repairs to century-old structures.

The City of Tacoma announced Friday its Historic Rehabilitation and Repair Loan Program – a big name for what is essentially a micro-loan program intended to give that last little bit of financing an owner might need.

“It’s gap funding. If you’re falling short on conventional commercial loan, we can help get that gap filled,” said Reuben McKnight, the city’s historic preservation officer.

Eligible borrowers must own a building listed on the city’s historic register, or be inside one of the city’s historic zones.

The minimum loan amount is $20,000 with a maximum of $100,000. A loan is available for up to 50 percent of the project’s costs, meaning the borrower will have to find at least half the project funding from other sources. Loans will have an interest rate equal to the 10-year Treasury Note plus 1 percent and a maximum term of 10 years. Payments are due monthly.

The city has just $200,000 earmarked for this program right now, McKnight said, calling it a pilot. The money will come from Urban Development Action Grand funding, a long-time revolving loan fund, and some leftover mitigation dollars from the city’s renovation of D Street.

“We’re really trying to put something out there to encourage that tipping point of getting occupancy in vacant buildings,” McKnight said. The loan program also is an attempt to balance regulation with incentives, he said, given the city’s recent implementation of special rules for maintaining historic buildings and other tougher enforcement tools.

Borrowers can use the money to do “envelope” improvements, such as replacing windows, doors, awnings or light fixtures; painting; work on the building’s plumbing, electrical or mechanical systems; or restoration of other exterior historic elements. The loan fund also is available for certain interior improvements, too, but the city’s historic preservation officer must sign off on those first.

Applications will be evaluated and approved by the Tacoma Community Redevelopment Authority, a city created enterprise that already administers loans to a variety of clients. Applicants will be evaluated using the credit score of the property owner and a financial review to determine if the applicant can afford to repay the loan, among other things.

Residential properties, additions and routine maintenance aren’t part of this program. For more details or an application, contact Jacinda Howard, in the City’s Community and Economic Development Department, at (253) 591-5221 or jhoward@cityoftacoma.org.

Kathleen Cooper: 253-597-8546 kathleen.cooper@thenewstribune.com @KCooperTNT

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