New Opportunities for Waterfront Revitalization

Feb 14, 2017 People & Community

Photo credit: Maranie Rae/Riverlife

The increasing revitalization of waterfronts in Pennsylvania has received a boost from the recent passage of the Waterfront Development Tax Credit (Senate Bill 282), which was introduced by State Senators Randy Vulakovich and Jay Costa.

According to Jay Sukernek, vice president and chief financial officer of Riverlife, who was instrumental in securing passage, the money made available through tax credits will be used on projects that provide amenities to the public and attract residents and visitors to waterfront areas.

The tax credit is an incentive to attract development and generate business opportunities, which in turn creates jobs and economic development, increases property value, fights blight and more.

The program will offer a 75 percent tax credit to any business that makes an eligible financial contribution to a qualified waterfront development organization. The funds can be used for public amenities like bicycle and pedestrian pathway connections with public trails, waterfront playgrounds, dog parks, boat docks and marinas, performance space, a café, burying power lines or stabilizing riverbanks for erosion control.

According to Sukernek, there are a number of points that make the bill “model legislation and good policy.”

  • It benefits the entire state. Of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania, 64 have significant creeks, rivers and lakes.
  • It is very understandable as it was modelled after the Educational Income Tax Credit.
  • There is very limited administrative overhead of 5 percent, so most of the money goes toward funding projects.
  • Eligible nonprofit entities need to have five years of experience and have completed a comprehensive waterfront development plan.
  • Donors don’t get to direct their contributions to a specific project, rather the funding from this credit is intended to be invested in the best projects — anywhere in the Commonwealth.
  • Projects have to be approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) in order to be sure that they address economic development and recreation or conservation. It also assures that the best projects that are ready to go are the ones that are funded.

The DCED is working on the guidelines now, and funding should be available on July 1, 2017.

State funds for the program are currently $1.5 million. Sukernek believes that this money will be most useful funding projects in small towns. 

To help smaller communities take advantage of the program, Riverlife has collaborated with the River Town Program and is consulting with small towns, providing expertise on planning and executing a waterfront projects.

“The goal is to build a stable of projects that are ready to go when July 1 hits and the initial funds are available, “says Sukernek. “We want to get the money in the ground as soon as possible so we can start talking to the legislature about what we have done, how it has benefitted communities and improved the quality of life – so we can get additional funding in the future.”

If you want to create a waterfront project in your town, contact Riverlife or download the Guide to Riverfront Development.