Historic Preservation Law

Historic Tax Incentives, Landmarking and Regulatory Defense & Compliance

Gary L. Cole AIA, Esq. is the only formally trained historic preservation architect and historic preservation attorney in the United States, and has merged the architectural, technical and legal aspects of historic preservation into one uniquely effective historic preservation and rehabilitation legal and consulting practice.

Drawing on the unusual depth of his government and private sector experience in historic preservation law and architecture, he offers a wide range of legal and consulting services related to historic rehabilitation tax incentives and syndication; landmarking and landmarking disputes; forensic technical assistance; testifying expert witness; historic preservation and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance and conflicts; litigation, arbitration and mediation; and cultural resource regulatory compliance under Section 106 of the NHPA of 1966 and related federal and state laws.

Mr. Cole’s state government experience as a former historical architect with the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA) allows him to speak the language of historic preservation, practice with an insider’s understanding of administrative and regulatory law, and, grants him a deep technical understanding of the approved technical solutions for historic rehabilitation promoted by the National Park Service via the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.

Also, while working with the IHPA, he provided assistance to more than 300 residential and commercial historic rehabilitation and regulatory compliance projects, including working with FEMA and the National Trust for Historic Preservation during the 1993 Mississippi River floods assisting flood-damaged Illinois local governments with grants to incentivize historic restoration. He also assisted the City of Chicago with a $35 million effort to restore Soldier Field and numerous historic park field houses and monuments.

As a private sector architect and attorney, he has assisted developers and property owners with obtaining historic rehabilitation income and property tax benefits, including successfully appealing the denial of such benefits before the National Park Service in Washington, D.C. He has represented property owners in both obtaining and resisting National Register of Historic Places and local landmark designations. He has also assisted property owners and developers with historic preservation regulatory compliance under federal and state laws triggered by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) financing and state licensing and permitting.

Since historic rehabilitation is a costly and complex enterprise, he has the ability on an as-needed basis to bring together highly qualified architects, engineers, accountants and specialty consultants to provide owners and developers with a whole team approach for maximum efficiency and cost effectiveness.

Mr. Cole is a former Visiting Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Graduate School of Architecture; a former Preservation Fund Director for the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois; was a founding Board member and General Counsel for The Chicago-Midwest Chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Classical America; is currently a member of the Chicago Chapter of the American Institute of Architects’ Historic Resources Committee; is a co-author of a legal treatise on historic preservation law for the Illinois Institute of Continuing Legal Education (IICLE); and, has spoken at local, state, national and international preservation conferences on a variety of matters.



[To Download Gary L. Cole AIA, Esq.’s Historic Preservation Attorney and Architect Curriculum Vitae in PDF Click Here]

Development Financial/Economic Incentives

Many commercial and residential historic rehabilitation projects are eligible for various types of development financial incentives. However, most of these incentives have complicated, and often vague requirements – such as the federal Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation – and require working with local, state and federal preservation commissions and agencies. The key to maximizing historic rehabilitation-related financial opportunities is in developing creative and comprehensive strategies at the commencement of any project and implementing a plan that insures the greatest return possible within the proper time frames.

Legal Services:

▪ Obtaining and Maximizing Rehabilitation Historic Tax Credits

▪ Historic Tax Credit Syndication for Raising Project Equity

▪ Donating Historic Preservation Façade/Conservation Easements

▪ Obtaining Property Tax Assessment Freeze Benefits (Illinois-specific)

▪ Obtaining the Ad Valorem Tax Exemption for Historic Properties (Florida-specific)

▪ Obtaining Class ‘L’ Tax Benefits (Cook County, Illinois-specific)

▪ Obtaining New Markets Tax Credits

▪ Energy-Efficiency Tax Benefits

▪ Analysis of Cost Segregation and Accelerated Depreciation Potential

▪ Grants applications, including Disaster-Related Grants

▪ Obtaining Tax-Increment Financing (TIF)

▪ Obtaining Public Finance, including Revenue Bonds and TIF-Backed Bonds

▪ Locating Preservation-Friendly Construction and Permanent Lenders


While some states have active landmarking programs, most landmarking occurs at the local level or by listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The differences between the two types of legal historic designations are profound and greatly affect the ability of property owners to both avail themselves of financial/economic incentives and their ability modify their buildings without special governmental approval. For that reason, while some property owners seek landmark status for their properties, others object to it. Mr. Cole has represented property owners in obtaining and objecting to landmark designations – in each case, by proper applying and observing local and federal landmarking laws to obtain the best outcome for his clients.

Legal Services:

▪ Obtaining and Objecting to Listing on the National Register of Historic Places

▪ Obtaining and Objecting to Local Landmarking

▪ Working with Historic Preservation Not-For-Profit Advocacy Groups

Dispute Resolution

Much of the historic-preservation related disputes involve landmarking issues, citizen advocacy or government objections to owners exercising their property rights by modifying or demolishing their properties, or the denial of various preservation-related financial/economic incentives. In some cases, these disputes can be resolved through administrative actions or negotiations; however, in other cases, more aggressive representation is required. Mr. Cole has also served as an expert witness in preservation-related litigation.

Legal Services:

▪ Litigation

▪ Arbitration

▪ Mediation

▪ Administrative Appeal

Cultural Resource

Historic rehabilitation projects may require services related to complying with state and federal historic preservation regulatory requirements, as well as local ordinances. Public historic rehabilitation projects are often required to be reviewed and approved by State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPOs) for compliance with state and federal preservation guidelines.

Legal Services:

▪ Administrative Negotiation Regarding Compliance with State and Federal Regulatory Laws, including Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act

▪ Historic American Building Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/ Historic American Landscape Survey (HABS/HAER/HALS) Documentation

▪ Adverse Effect Case Report Preparation

▪ Strategic Planning for the Management & Development of Historic Properties

▪ Cultural Resources Surveys

▪ Historic Structures Reports

▪ Building and Material Investigation and Forensics

▪ Existing Conditions Surveys and Reports

▪ Historical Research

▪ Design Review for Municipalities

▪ Historic Preservation Ordinance Consultation

▪ Historic Preservation/Green Building Impact

▪ Request for Proposal (RFP) Consultation

▪ Coordination with Archaeologists

▪ Outreach to Historic Preservation Advocacy Organizations

▪ Compliance with Local, State and Federal Accessibility Laws

  • No, sorry, I don’t know anyone like that.

  • patton78

    Looking for a historic preservation lawyer in New York familiar with NHPA 1966 and section 106 review for adaptive reuse?
    Any advice?

  • LawArk

    Thanks John, I appreciate the feedback. This my general law site – have you visited my new preservation-only one?

  • John Speweik

    Gary, I like your new web site. You bring a very important experienced-based perspective to the challenges we face in historic preservation work.