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Building Innovation is a collection of stories by 90.5 fm WESA reporters about the Pittsburgh region focusing on efficient government operation, infrastructure and transportation, innovative practices, energy and environment and neighborhoods and community.

PA Senator Vulakovich Pushes For Waterfront Development Tax Credit

State Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny) wants to encourage private investment in waterfront property by pushing for his proposed senate bill that would establish a Waterfront Development Tax Credit.

The senator said Pennsylvania’s greatest resources are the many lakes, rivers and creeks that hold a place in state and national history as well as provide recreational opportunities. However, areas along these resources need substantial investment to redevelop because of obstacles such as contamination and abandoned industrial sites.

Vulakovich’s bill and an identical house bill sponsored by Rep. Tom Killion (R-Delaware) would offer tax credits to individuals and businesses that contribute to waterfront improvement organizations. The total tax credits would be capped at $10 million per fiscal year.

“My bill provides a way for organizations and private investors to work together to restore those areas in ways that will benefit the entire community. Under my measure and Representative Killion’s, contributions will be used for specific waterfront development projects,” Vulakovich said.

Projects would first have to be approved by the Department of Community and Economic Development to qualify for the credits. Vulakovich said credits could be used for development including waterfront parks, gardens and open spaces, erosion control, streets and public rights-of-way or transit landings and boat docks.

Killion said the credits would provide an opportunity for Pennsylvania to set a nationwide standard of how to capitalize on the potential of waterfront sites to attract investment through public-private partnerships.

“A lot of folks sometimes will say, ‘a tax credit? Well you’re giving money away,’ but this gets a lot more money back,” he said.

Jay Sukernek, acting director of Riverlife, a public-private partnership that advocates for the redevelopment of Pittsburgh’s riverfronts, said the development tax credit would be largely beneficial not only for development purposes, but also for the economic multipliers that waterfront infrastructure creates.

Since Riverlife started in 1999, $130 million has been directly invested in riverfront projects, he said, which spurred more than $4 billion in adjacent investments.

Sukernek said the tax credit would be a catalyst to replicate statewide the same kind of development seen in Pittsburgh.

“The proposed legislation, which we believe would be the first of its kind in the nation, provides the opportunity for Pennsylvania to set a nationwide standard on how to capitalize on the potential of waterfront sites to attract investment into the state to generate long-term value through public private partnerships,” he said.

Vulakovich said the pattern of high quality waterfronts increasing surrounding property value is clear.

“We only need to look at Pittsburgh’s riverfront development efforts to see a prime example of the benefit of investment in those types of projects,” he said.

The House bill was referred to the finance committee in February while the Senate bill had first consideration Wednesday.