Preservation Maryland is pleased to announce the organization’s priority legislation for the current session of the Maryland General Assembly aimed at accelerating support for challenging preservation projects around the state has been formally introduced by Sen. Sarah Elfreth and Del. Courtney Watson.

The cost of rehabilitating vacant and underutilized historic structures increases daily and Maryland
communities need an agile, easy-to-deploy source of funds that is quickly able to support non-profits,
governments, and businesses working to put these buildings back into productive use.

Historic Ellicott City. Photo by AAIC Visual Perceptions.

SB425, entitled the, “Historic Preservation Partnership Program,” will convert an existing, underutilized loan fund to support the establishment of a perpetual, revolving preservation partnership fund to be managed by a nonprofit preservation organization.

In addition to the primary sponsorship of Sen. Eflreth (Anne Arundel Co.), co-sponsors in the Maryland Senate include Sen. Paul Corderman (Washington & Frederick Co.) and Sen. Katie Fry Hester (Howard & Montgomery Co.).

The Need for Speed & Partnerships

A revolving loan fund program has existed with the Maryland Historical Trust (an agency of the Maryland Department of Planning) since 1973 – but in recent years has been increasingly difficult to deploy due to cumbersome lending requirements, the changing landscape of preservation and real estate, and regulatory requirements which often keep potential recipients from applying and create a burden on state resources. As a result, over the past 11 years, the current loan fund has made just four loans to outside parties.

417 North Jonathan Street

417 N. Jonathan Street (Hagerstown, 2019) — a property which could have benefitted from this type of fund.

Fortunately, there’s a better alternative — and other states have shown the way by moving these funds to creative non-profit organizations –including our neighbors in nearby Virginia where Preservation Virginia has managed a similar fund with great success over the past two decades after its transfer from their state historic preservation office.

The fund’s creation will require no additional appropriation — making it simpler to pass — but instead will move existing funds into a partnership fund that a qualified non-profit will manage following a process outlined in the bill to award the funds. Preservation Maryland intends on applying to be the administrator of the new fund once the legislation is passed.

As in Virginia, here in Maryland our trusted partners at the Maryland Historical Trust are well-equipped to regulate preservation – but the non-profit sector is often better resourced to be responsive to market conditions and the changing preservation real estate landscape. As is the case with some of our state’s most successful endeavors in heritage preservation — from the Heritage Area program to the state historic tax credit, public-private partnerships that creatively deploy resources often work best.

This updated and reimagined program will allow each partner to do what they do best — and help save far more history in the process. 

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