Historic Properties Fund

The Historic Properties Fund offers low-interest loans and project management assistance to owners of historic residential, non-profit, religious, and commercial properties throughout the City – mostly in low- to moderate-income communities.

The New York Landmark Conservancy is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its Historic Properties Fund, one of the largest and oldest revolving loan funds for preservation in the country. Our loans have helped restore more than 200 buildings throughout the five boroughs:  from Brooklyn brownstones, to Harlem churches to Queens co-ops to Staten Island Victorian homes… even a landmark tugboat.

Our expert staff helps property owners select qualified architects and contractors. They also help ensure that the work is on time, on budget and up to landmark standards. And in this period of troubled mortgages, The Fund has an excellent repayment record.

The Historic Properties Fund has made, and continues to make, a visible difference in neighborhoods…creating jobs; saving energy and protecting property values. And we look forward to the next 30 years of neighborhood revitalization.   

Historic Properties Fund - 30th Anniversary from New York Landmarks Conservancy on Vimeo.

Historic Properties Fund History
January 8, 1982 is the date of the tripartite agreement that established the New York City Historic Properties Fund and called for its initial and subsequent capitalizations by the developer of the Federal Archive Building.  Verging on 30 years, the Historic Properties Fund has been a major financing vehicle in the five boroughs of New York and a critical programmatic component of The New York Landmarks Conservancy which administers it.

The genesis of the Historic Properties Fund – now one of the largest private revolving loan funds in the country that is used exclusively for historic preservation – was the culmination of over seven years of extensive work by the Landmarks Conservancy shortly after it was became operational in 1973.  The Conservancy was asked by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), the custodian of the Federal Archive Building in Greenwich Village, to help find new uses for the Archive Building, an imposing Romanesque Revival structure (Willoughby J. Edbrooke et al., 1892-99).  The property was designated as a City landmark in 1966 and then listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  It served for many years as an archival storage center for federal documents, when a decision was made to move the archives to New Jersey, where storage could be in a one-level facility.  Hence, this massive (over 400,000 square feet) structure was to become vacant and surplus to GSA in the mid-1970s.  At that time, in the midst of the City’s fiscal crisis, the Archive Building was seen as a white elephant, its location in the far West Village rendering it sub-prime to many – a viewpoint proven to be erroneous by the ascent of property values in that neighborhood since then.

The Conservancy commissioned the Graduate School of Architecture & Planning at Columbia University to analyze the property and devise a reuse proposal for it.  The final report in 1975 called for the conversion of the Archive Building to a mixture of commercial, residential, and community uses.  Importantly, it put forth the concept of transferring the property from the Federal government for private development and commercial uses, using a recent amendment to the Federal Surplus Property Act.  And from this framework came the idea of using the net revenues from the redevelopment of the Archive Building to capitalize a revolving loan fund. 

Over the next several years, the Conservancy served in essence as the project manager for GSA, issuing a request for proposals to developers, selecting a developer, and working through many public agencies at all levels to put the transaction together.  The agreement of January 8, 1982 with the initial payment of approximately $470,000 into the revolving loan fund was historic unto itself.  In 1989, the redevelopment of the Archive Building was completed and consisted of 479 units of market rate housing, almost 40,000sf of below market-rate space for community uses, and ground level retail.  Between 1982 and 1998, the developer contributed approximately $7 million into the Fund.

The first loan of the Historic Properties Fund was in 1983: $55,000 to the Washington Square United Methodist Church at 135 West 4th Street, just a few blocks east of the Archive Building.  The loan funds were used to restore cracked plaster and ceiling panels in the sanctuary.  To date, the Historic Properties Fund has assisted over 200 properties, committing over $20 million in loans to finance restoration.