“It’s exciting that another piece of the puzzle has been approved for funding,” said Champaign Economic Partnership Executive Director Marcia Bailey. “Nothing is finalized yet, and we’re not quite ready to sign for the property, but the city, Urbana City Schools and the CEP have done everything we can on our end and now we’re continuing to work with Flaherty & Collins to get this project to the final stages.”
According to ODSA, Legacy Place is only the second project to be awarded in Urbana. The awards are planned to assist private developers in rehabilitating historic buildings in downtowns and neighborhoods that, once rehabilitated, drive further investment and interest in adjacent property.
“The historic preservation tax credit is another way we’re investing in our communities,” said Gov. Mike DeWine in a news release. “These investments can spur development in a neighborhood or downtown.”
“Partnering with communities and developers across Ohio, we’re preserving historic sites that make Ohio unique,” said Lydia Mihalik, director of ODSA. “We’re creating new opportunities for small businesses and housing.”
The Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit program is administered in partnership with the Ohio History Connection’s State Historic Preservation Office. The state Historic Preservation Office determines if a property qualifies as a historic building and if the rehabilitation plans comply with the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.
Bailey said that in addition to providing a built-in customer base for downtown business owners, the project will be an example for the Moving Downtown Forward committee to inform developers how to move projects ahead in downtown Urbana.
According to information from the ODSA, the Douglas Inn was constructed about 1870 in the Second Empire style with a mansard roof. The structure has been vacant since 2004. When ready to complete the sale of property, Flaherty & Collins will work directly with private owner John Doss to acquire the Douglas Inn.
“Just seeing the Douglas get put back into use again is a very positive thing for the community,” said Community Development Manager Doug Crabill. “Seeing those school buildings be reused rather than being torn down and vacant lots gives us a good feeling, because at least we know there is a plan for re-purposing those buildings.”
“It’s something we’re used to doing and we feel like there’s usually an extra need for senior housing in communities, and in communities like Urbana there’s a need to help older (buildings) continue their life,” said Julie Collier, vice president of Development for Flaherty & Collins Properties. “It’s two-fold for us because we’ll help save some important buildings in … Urbana, and we’ll also fulfill a housing need for local residents.”
The two schools, built in 1901 and 1921, served the city’s children until they became vacant in 2018. Bailey said the Ohio Revised Code allows the school district to dis-invest of the two properties no longer needed by the school district. Rather than demolish the buildings, the plan is for them to be purchased by the city for $1 each under an alreadysigned purchase agreement. Then the CEP will act on behalf of the city to sell the buildings to Flaherty and Collins.
“The city council agreed to do all of this,” said Bailey. “We had the city schools that were willing because they didn’t want to see the buildings (demolished) either, and it’s a cost savings for taxpayers not to have to pay for the demolition. But the city council agreed that they will take on the buildings … That was an important component, because if the city had not agreed to do that we wouldn’t be where we’re at right now.”
On March 19, the Urbana City Council unanimously passed a resolution of support for the developers of Legacy Place to apply to the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program. Flaherty & Collins also obtained tax credits through the Ohio Housing Finance Agency.
‘Legacy Place’ project in Urbana receives almost $1M in funding from state tax credit
The project, called Legacy Place, would create 51 housing units available to residents 55 and older.
“We are super excited, this was a big hurdle and achieving this credit is a really exciting achievement,” said Marica Bailey, Director of the Champaign Economic Partnership. “We are ready to move forward with this process.”
MORE: Plan might find new use for Douglas Hotel, longtime Urbana eyesore
While funding for the project has been secured, Bailey said, the project is still a work in progress.
“There is no start time,” Bailey said. “This project is still in the making, but this is a big step in the making.”
The Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit is administered in partnership with the Ohio History Connection’s State Historic Preservation office and the Ohio Development Services Agency. The credit is awarded to, “assist private developers in rehabilitating historic buildings in downtown and neighborhoods.”
“Partnering with communities and developers across Ohio, we’re preserving historic sites that make Ohio unique,” Lydia Mihalik, director of the Ohio Development Services Agency, said in a news release. “We’re creating new opportunities for small businesses and housing.”
The Legacy Place project is just one of 22 projects awarded the tax credit. In total, the Ohio Department of Services Agency awarded more than $28 million for the rehabilition of 49 historic buildings, according to the ODSA.
Under the Legacy Place project, the city of Urbana has agreed to take ownership of the two elementary school buildings and transfer them to the Champaign Economic Partnership. The CEP will then transfer the two buildings to Flaherty and Collins.
The next step in the Legacy Place project since receiving the credit, will be to work on transferring and finalizing property agreements, Bailey said.
“We are going to be meeting up and working through the fine details of the project and finalizing some of the purchasing agreements and stuff like that in the coming months,” Bailey said.
The former Douglas Hotel is privately owned by John Doss, who plans to work out a separate agreement with the company.
Doss said previously that he purchased the Douglas with plans to eventually restore it, although it’s been a slow process to track down funding and find a suitable project.
The former hotel has been vacant for more than a decade and city officials have said in the past they believe the building is an eyesore downtown. Turning the site into senior housing will encourage more residents to live downtown and create new opportunities for retailers, Bailey said.
“This is going to have a tremendous impact and the making of this has been an incredible effort,” Bailey said.
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$988,058: Total tax credit the Legacy Place project has received as a part of the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit
51: Housing units for residents 55 and older the Legacy Place project will create
3: Total properties involved in the senior housing plan- 2 elementary schools and the Douglas Hotel
The Springfield News-Sun is committed to covering economic developments in Clark and Champaign counties.
“The best news is that we have a governor who is a farmer,” she added.
“I’ve visited his farm in Cedarville many times and I’ve met the familythat farms his farm, and believe me that farmer is in Gov. DeWine’s ear every single day talking to him about the real issues on Gov. DeWine’s farm itself, but also the issues statewide. So Gov. DeWine has farmers in his heart and in his mind every day as he goes about the state doing the business of the state of Ohio.”
Touring Champaign County farms
At Pelanda’s first stop at Freshwater Farms of Ohio she met owner Dr. Dave Smith, who walked her past a series of fish tanks, some containing fish you could pet or feed. Inside one building he said that each tank contained 4,600 perch at a time and that the crowded school makes the fish feel more at ease.
Smith also explained his RAINBOW - Routing And Integrating Nutrient Byproducts Of Wastewater - program through which he recycles water to irrigate six acres of field to grow melons, pumpkins, bell peppers and tomatoes. With his background in ecology he has fostered a diverse ecosystem of insects that naturally prevents any one pest species from gaining an advantage, making pesticides unnecessary.
Pelanda encouraged Smith to set aside acreage to grow hemp, saying that the governor will be signing a bill later this summer authorizing her, as the director of agriculture, to grant farmers licenses to grow hemp with almost no restrictions.
“Hearing Dave talk about his passion and his vision for what he wants to do in the future with hydroponics and aquaponics is really exciting,” she said prior to the film. “We then moved to Mike (Pullins) and Cathy’s Berry Farm, and in the misty rain we picked some beautiful red and black raspberries, and what a treasure that is going to be to take home to my husband tonight.”
After picking berries, Pelanda sat on an EZ-Go cart with Mike as he explained his farming methods. He said that pick-your-own raspberry season was to begin today and invited area residents to the farm at 5676 E. state Route 29.
According to Pullins, the first berries available will be red raspberries, but black raspberries would likely be available next week.
Pelanda was joined at this stop by Melinda Lee, organization director of the Champaign County Farm Bureau.
Lee gave Pelanda a bottle of wine on behalf of Dragonfly Vineyard.
Finally, Pelanda visited Dugan Road Creamery and was guided through the process of making yogurt. Owner Joyce Nelson said one cow drinks an average of 50 gallons of water and produces 145 pounds of milk every day. Pelanda watched owner Chris Nelson operate a pasteurizing machine that can produce one pound of cheese from a gallon of milk, or four gallons of yogurt from five gallons of milk. “Our final stop was at a unique dairy farm, and it was just wonderful because from cow to yogurt we got to see the process from finish to end, so it was a very memorable visit,” Pelanda said of the visit prior to the film.
For more information about any of the farms on this tour, contact the CEP at 937-653-7200.
Christopher Selmek can be reached at 937-508-2304.
Champaign County gets visitors, and soon they’ll have a place to stay, too.
Caty Shoemaker, seated at center, signs her employment contract as an intern at ORBIS in Urbana. Seated at left is her manager, Laura Reed, materials manager, and seated at right is Shoemaker’s fiancé, Sam McGill. Standing from left are Dan Szklany, ORBIS plant manager; Maegan O’Connor, human resources representative; Tom Walker, scheduler; Sharon Cook, buyer/planner; Shelley Fuller, plant scheduler; Julie McGill, Sam McGill’s mother; Judy and Rodney McGill, McGill’s aunt and uncle; Cindy and Perry Shoemaker, Shoemaker’s parents; Jill O’Neal, Caty Shoemaker’s sister; Dean Ortlieb, Urbana fire chief and a cousin of the Shoemaker family; Karen Chuvalas of Urbana University; Ashley Cook, business liaison of the Champaign Economic Partnership (CEP); and CEP Director Marcia Bailey.
The Orbis manufacturing facility in Urbana held a May 10 signing ceremony for an Urbana University senior who has begun a scheduling and purchasing internship at the company, which makes reusable plastic containers, pallets, dunnage and bulk systems for industrial customers.
Caty Shoemaker, a West Liberty-Salem High School graduate who will graduate in December from Urbana University, was joined for the signing ceremony by ORBIS leaders, representatives of the university and Champaign Economic Partnership (CEP), and family members, including her sister Jill O’Neal, a former member of the ORBIS team and now human resources operations manager at Weidmann Electrical Technology in Urbana and a member of the CEP Board.
The ceremony, patterned after signing ceremonies that colleges conduct for new student athletes, was coordinated with ORBIS by Ashley Cook, business liaison of the CEP.
Shoemaker is majoring in strategic management and minoring in accounting and marketing at Urbana University, a branch campus of Franklin University.
Karen Chuvalas, business development manager of the university’s UrbanaWORKS program, said that Christopher Washington, executive vice president and CEO of the university, is developing relationships with local companies to establish internships and co-ops. He wants all students to complete an internship or co-op before graduating.
Bundy Baking Solutions held a signing ceremony a week before for three local students who have joined their workforce.
Brock Bennett recently graduated from Ohio-Hi Point and will become a TIG welder at Shaffer Manufacturing, a division of Bundy Baking Solutions. Brock said he did a three-month internship with Shaffer over his summer break. He learned about the opportunity when his class took a field trip there and performed some welding practice. He will become a full-time welder, which aligns with his career ambitions. He said that after a year he may attend the Hobart Institute of Welding Technology to increase his fabrication skills.
His sister, Lexis, found out about the internship opportunity as a graphic designer in Bundy’s marketing department through her faculty advisor at Clark State University. She has been working for Bundy’s almost a year and said she enjoys it and anticipated being offered a job. She graduated May 4.
“The environment is very relaxed,” she said. “They offer great benefits. Everyone is very nice, very polite. It’s unlike anywhere I’ve worked. Everybody is just amazing here.”
Whitt will soon graduate from Graham High School, after which she will become a press operator for American Pan. She said she discovered the opportunity when Bundy’s human resources representative, Nancee Starkey, visited her career connections class. Whitt was impressed by the opportunities for advancement and said she is planning to stay with the company while completing a degree part time at Sinclair Community College.
Business Liaison Ashley Cook said that the Champaign Economic Partnership’s Manufacturing Council worked closely with Bundy Baking Solutions to build a partnership that markets job opportunities to area students.
While estimates show that both counties experienced declining populations over the last several years, the worst may be coming to an end, Bill LaFayette, an economist and owner of Regionomics, a Columbus-based economics and workforce consulting firm said.
The estimated population for Clark County in 2018 was 134,585, down slightly from 134,649 in 2017.
In Champaign County, it was 38,754 in 2018 as compared to 38,824 in 2017.
“When you look at the chart, the big story is this,” LaFayette said. “Although Clark County is losing population, it’s losing population at a slower rate than it once was.”
LaFayette is right — and the same statement rings true for Champaign County as well Between 2015 and 2016 alone, Clark County’s estimated population dropped by more than 1,000 residents.
In Champaign County, between 2010 and 2016, the county lost an estimated 1,358 residents.
However, between 2016 and 2018, Clark County lost just 116 residents. Champaign only lost an estimated 70 residents during that same time period.
Officials in Clark and Champaign counties and LaFayette have pointed to two things they say has slowed population declines over the last three years; jobs and cost of living.
Economic development “I would guess the reason for the decline slowing is the economy,” LaFayette said.
“More jobs are popping up.”
Jobs are the biggest factor when it comes to why a resident moves to, or from, an area, LaFayette said.
So far in 2019, the unemployment rate has continued to fall, according to data by the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services.
The unemployment rate dropped to 4.1 percent in Clark County in March, down 1.3 percent since the start of the year. In Champaign, it has dropped 1.1 percent for the year, finishing at 3.4 percent in March.
Melanie Flax Wilt, Clark County commissioner, said within the last couple of years, Clark County has turned its attention to workforce development.
“Workforce development is huge for us,” Flax Wilt said. “We’ve been focused on bringing new jobs here.”
The decision to focus more on economic development is bolstered by a 2018 labor market analysis conducted by the University of Cincinnati Economic Center in collaboration with the Chamber of Greater Springfield.
The analysis found about 54 percent of residents in Clark County travel to neighboring counties for work.
About 20 percent of residents surveyed for the study told researchers they travel to other counties because they don’t believe jobs are available in Clark County in their industry. Around 44 percent of those surveyed cited better wages in other counties.
Flax Wilt said people in Clark County have come together over the course of the last couple of years.
“It’s an exciting time in Clark County. I see it everywhere I go. I believe people recognize that we are trying to make positive changes,” Flax Wilt said. “People recognize that this county has a lot to offer.”
Cost of living Bryan Heck, Springfield city manager, said living in Clark County allows people to “see their dollar going further.”
“I think it’s an attractive area to them,” Heck said.
“We’ve worked to bring additional jobs and that helps, of course, but the cost of living is also low compared to other regions.”
Steven Hess, Champaign County Commissioner, agrees.
“Whether it’s a lower cost of living or a job, it doesn’t matter,” Hess said. “Whatever gets people here.”
A low cost of living is what brought Gerard Milewski and his family to Springfield.
Milewski said he, his wife and their two children, ages 3 and 10, moved to Springfield in 2017 from Cincinnati.
“Being able to buy a home for cheap was a huge selling point,” Milewski said.
Because of low cost of living, Milewski said he doesn’t see the population decline as a bad thing.
“The population decline doesn’t bother me,” Milewski said. “I think it encourages people to move to the community, people like me, to move here and put money into a home.”
Homes in Clark and Champaign counties sold quicker in 2018 than in 2017, according to statistics gathered by Western Regional Information Systems & Technology, an Ohio-based company that monitors real estate trends, including in Clark and Champaign.
Data from WRIST shows that 364 homes were sold last year in Clark County, up 23 from 2017, and 380 homes were sold in Champaign, up 15 from 2017.
It was a transition settling into a smaller community, Milewski said, but since then his family has enjoyed living in Springfield.
“The city has potential,” Milewski said. “I’ve seen smaller communities, like Springfield, in Cincinnati turn into big cities, and I think the city and the county do a good job of focusing on local issues.”
Because Clark County is a smaller county, Milewski said, it can allow local governments to focus on more localized issues.
“In Cincinnati, the city government is focused on major league sports teams, stuff like that, which in the long run doesn’t really affect every day people,” Milewski said. “Here, the county — local government — they are focused on small businesses and how to improve life for the average person.”
Marcia Bailey, Director of the Champaign Economic Partnership, said counties across Ohio, like Clark and Champaign counties, should focus on marketing themselves to, “the average person.”
“We need to make certain we are marketing ourselves to attract and increase our population,” Bailey said.
In marketing themselves, counties should play on their strengths, Bailey said.
“The lifestyle, career choices, new schools, growing up here and now retiring, wanting to live in a more relaxed community with a lower cost of living,” Bailey said. “I see a positive indication in our population that we are building on things like that.”
It tells ‘more about your community’ While there are theories as to why the population in Clark and Champaign counties might be leveling off, more concrete answers probably won’t be available until late 2020, when results of the national decennial census will be released.
Although the U.S. Census Bureau carries out hundreds of surveys every year, like population estimates, its most well known duty is still to conduct the decennial census.
According to the Census Bureau’s website, a decennial census: determines the distribution of Congressional seats; makes planning decisions about community services such as where to build new roads and how to distribute more than $675 billion in federal funds to local and state governments; and provides age information for social security and other retirement benefits.
“It controls a lot,” LaFayette said.
It also allows people to better understand their communities, LaFayette said.
“The census can tell you the characteristics of the population, earnings, education level, age distribution, whether or not people have been working, where people have been working,” LaFayette said.
That’s why, he said, it’s important for residents to participate in the count taken every 10 years.
“It tells you more about your community than anything else,” LaFayette said.
Contact this reporter at 937-328-0329 or email Riley.Newton@coxinc.com.
CLARK, CHAMPAIGN POPULATION ESTIMATES COMPARED TO 10 YEARS AGO
139,404 Clark County estimated population in 2008
134,585 Clark County estimated population in 2018
40,263 Champaign County estimated population in 2008
38,754 Champaign County estimated population in 2018
SOURCE: U.S. CENSUS BUREAU
The Springfield News- Sun is committed to covering economic growth in Clark and Champaign counties.