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Historic Hartigan Block to be preserved thanks to federal tax credits and RSA 79-E

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The City of Rochester is pleased to announce that the Hartigan Block, located at 77 and 73 North Main Street, across from the Rochester District Court House, is back on track to be renovated and preserved.

First initiated in 2019, the project was hampered by the pandemic, record-high building costs, and ongoing labor shortages.

Going forward, property owner Justin Gargiulo says the plan is to restore the historic building while adding 6 apartments to the upper levels. In addition, the first floor will be outfitted with one or two commercial units, depending on the interest and needs of potential future businesses.

Shanna B. Saunders, Director of Planning and Development for the City of Rochester, expects that the apartments won’t last long on the market.

“There is a considerable demand for housing in the downtown,” said Saunders. “The region has an enormous deficit for rental opportunities. Currently, in Stafford County, the vacancy rate is approximately 2%.”

Saunders applauds Gargiulo’s efforts to revitalize the property and is “thrilled to know that the historic building will be preserved.”

“The building has a lot of historic character and charm,” said Saunders. “Kudos to Justin for the ingenuity in restoring it to its full potential, allowing residents, visitors, and customers to enjoy Rochester history for years to come.”

Michael Scala, Director of Economic Development for the City of Rochester, says he’s “excited to see more dwelling units and commercial opportunities downtown.”

“For years, Rochester has struggled with vacant commercial storefronts in the downtown area,” said Scala. “Unfortunately, in most cases, the issue is not a lack of demand  it’s absentee landlords. We still have work to do but it’s nice to see another long-vacant space become viable again, thanks to a property owner with a good plan and the ambition to make it happen.”

In October 2019, the Rochester City Council granted a Community Revitalization Tax Incentive to Gargiulo in order to spur the development of the Hartigan Block.

The Community Revitalization Tax Incentive, more commonly referred to as RSA 79-E, is a state program that encourages investment in downtown centers. It provides a tax incentive for the rehabilitation of under-utilized buildings and, in so doing, aims to promote strong local economies and smart, sustainable growth as an alternative to sprawl.

Scala is quick to point out that the 79-E program is not a handout, but rather a way to incentivize the revitalization of properties that are no longer viable or attractive to developers. At the end of the deferment period, the buildings are reassessed.

“To be frank, without 79-E, we’d still be looking at a vacant downtown,” said Scala. “We’ve had a lot of success so far. The Scenic Salinger, former Ainsley’s Drug Store, and former Hoffman and Slim’s buildings are all 79-E projects. Eventually, they will contribute more to the tax base, where in some cases, they were not previously.”

In addition to 79-E, Gargiulo received federal tax credits that are specifically meant to assist with historic preservation.

“It’s important to me that we do this the right way,” said Gargiulo. “This is one of the most beautiful buildings in the downtown area and we want to make sure the original architecture is preserved carefully and thoughtfully. We’ve assembled a great team that is more than capable of doing the work needed to make it happen. We can’t wait to show everyone when it’s complete.”

Gargiulo expects to have substantial completion in the early spring of 2023.

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