“Norwood Hills CC: No Sweat and Plenty of Gain”
Two weeks ago I wrote about Norwood Hills Country Club in Saint Louis, which in 2006 was issued a $1.1 million Historic Preservation Tax Credit (HPTC) from the state of Missouri. Rarely do you see an extensive write-up about the “whys” and “hows” of an individual tax credit, but in July 2005, the industry publication Club & Resort Business wrote a long story about the renovations at Norwood Hills and how the club got the tax credits which helped pay for it. The article offered indispensable insight into the club’s internal tax credit discussions, with the apropos headline, reused above, “Norwood Hills CC: No Sweat and Plenty of Gain.” Notably (emphasis mine):
The two-and-a-half-year process of applying (to both state and federal agencies) was arduous and intensely bureaucratic . . . But in February of this year , Norwood Hills was finally notified that it did indeed qualify to be included on the registry. And with the honor came a huge financial benefit: specifically, the ability to earn tax credits for 45 cents of every dollar spent on the renovation project.
How did the club get 45 cents on the dollar? The state HPTC offers 25 cents on the dollar for qualifying renovation expenses, but the federal version of the HPTC offers an additional 20 cents on the dollar for those expenses. At the Show-Me Institute, we talk a lot about state incentives because we are, after all, a state-focused think tank. However, taxpayers should understand that there oftentimes is more than just state money involved in renovation and building projects like this — so much government money, in fact, that nearly half of the cost of a multi-million dollar renovation to a private golf club could be underwritten with tax credits. Have taxpayers gotten their money’s worth? I report, you decide.
One other noteworthy tidbit from the article is that the original idea of making Norwood Hills a Historic Place came from a real estate developer — who apparently did not think Norwood Hills was that historic of a place (emphasis mine):
Another huge boost to the renovation project came after a Norwood Hills member who is a real estate developer suggested that the club, which hosted the 1948 PGA and has a long and rich connection with St. Louis-area social history, look into the possibility of applying for placement on the National Registry of Historic Places. Successfully securing that status, the developer member advised, would then qualify Norwood Hills, which operates as a for-profit corporation, for renovation tax credits.
“[The member] felt we could qualify not so much because of the club’s history or architecture, but because of the distinction of our members in the St. Louis community through the years,” Wright says.
If Norwood Hills as a place was not itself historic, what exactly was the Historic Preservation Tax Credit preserving? “History” is no doubt in the eyes of the beholder, but for taxpayers on the outside looking in at Norwood Hills, what they gained in this process is of considerable interest, sweat or no sweat.