By Jenna Lawson, Springfield News-Sun Staff Writer
The last bit of needed funding has been secured to push forward the ‘Legacy Place’ senior housing project in Urbana.
Sourcing all of the funding has been a tedious multi-year task undertaken by several different parties — but soon residents will start to see the fruits of labor.
“This is going to be a reality,” said Champaign Economic Development Director Marcia Bailey. “It’s not just sketches on a piece of paper. It’s going to be a reality.”
In August, the developers of the project — Flaherty & Collins Properties — applied for a grant through the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati with the help of community partners.
“(The developer) has indicated to us if they’re able to secure that grant, then they can move forward toward a closing to this project,” said Doug Crabill, Urbana’s community development manager.
Crabill, as well as Marcia Bailey, director of Champaign County Economic Development, have been working with Flaherty & Collins Properties, a developer based in Indianapolis that has expressed interest in the project, to secure the funding for “Legacy Place.”
The project would convert the Douglas Hotel, as well as the former North and South Elementary Schools in Urbana, into affordable senior apartments.
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“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.
Key development projects
Thanks to economic development investments by private businesses working with the CEP, Urbana – for the first time ever – ranked 41st in the Site Selection magazine’s 2017 list of top U.S. micropolitan communities.
Recent successes include the new Navistar distribution center, Memorial Health’s medical building, expansion of Weidmann Electrical Technology, opening of Nutrien Ag Solutions, Sutphen Corporation’s new Service, Parts and Refurbishment Center, expansion of Old Souls Farms hydroponic operations, expansion of Advanced Technology Products and purchase of the former Robert Rothschild Farm property.
Champaign County manufacturing jobs have grown from under 3,000 jobs in 2013 to nearly 4,000 in 2018.
Major projects for 2019 include:
The CEP is partnering with schools and businesses in numerous ways to help make sure Champaign County has the skilled workforce required by new and expanding businesses.
Results of these partnerships include:
For more information, call the CEP at 937-653-7200 or browse CEPOhio.com.