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Proposed tax credit would benefit waterfront projects in Pennsylvania

| Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, 6:03 p.m.

HARRISBURG — The state would provide up to $10 million in tax credits annually for those who contribute to waterfront improvement projects under a bill to be aired Friday in Pittsburgh before a Senate panel, the sponsor said.

The Senate Finance Committee will consider the bill in an “informational hearing,” meaning members will not vote. They'll meet in Lawrence Hall of Point Park University, Downtown.

The scope of projects could range from biking and walking trails to erosion control, stormwater management, open spaces and economic development, said Sen. Randy Vulakovich, R-Shaler. He's not a committee member, but the chairman, Sen. Mike Brubaker, R-Lancaster, agreed to the Pittsburgh venue.

If approved, the bill would apply statewide, making tax credits “available to individuals or businesses that contribute to nonprofit waterfront improvement organizations,” according to a memo Vulakovich wrote to seek sponsors.

The type and amount of credits are subject to debate, Vulakovich said. The concept is for “public-private partnerships” along waterfronts such as Pittsburgh's three rivers. Projects would need approval from the state Department of Community and Economic Development.

Two large-scale developments in Pittsburgh potentially could benefit.

Almono LP, a collaboration between the Downtown-based Regional Industrial Development Corp. and four foundations, wants to establish about $1 billion in development along the Monongahela River in Hazelwood. The plan for the former LTV Steel Co. site includes housing, an environmental science center, a technology park and office and commercial space.

In the Strip District, Buncher Co. proposed more than $400 million in development along the Allegheny River between 11th and 21st streets. The project, dubbed Riverfront Landing, includes housing, office and retail development but is on hold while City Council considers legislation to designate the Strip's Produce Terminal as a historic building.

Buncher wants to demolish a third of the 1,500-foot-long building to extend 17th Street to the waterfront and gain access to the sprawling site.

The details and a vote on Vulakovich's bill may be a ways off, he said. He acknowledged lawmakers likely will not vote by year's end and that developing legislation sometimes takes several years to pass.

“The Waterfront Development Tax Credit Program is established to encourage private investment in waterfront property, which creates public access to the water, increases property values, restores ecology and catalyzes further financial investment and job creation,” the bill states.

Vulakovich said there's no outlay of state money with a tax credit, but the state would have to come up with revenue to make up the difference. In tight economic times, the $10 million may need to be reduced, he said.

Staff writer Tom Fontaine contributed to this report. Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol writer. Reach him at 717-787-1405 or bumsted@tribweb.com.

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