by Christopher Selmek, Urbana Daily Citizen
The Urbana City Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting the residential rental development proposed by Flaherty and Collins Properties to redevelop South Elementary School, North Elementary School and the Douglas Inn for senior apartments at a regular council meeting on Tuesday. A copy of this resolution will accompany Flaherty and Collins' tax credit application to the Ohio Housing Finance Authority by the Feb. 15 deadline.
"I think this is a fantastic opportunity, and I think Urbana would be very welcoming to this," said council member Doug Hoffman. "We've got three distinct structures that I think really need this for the revitalization of the properties. These properties don't get fixed up any other way, at least not in the near future, and it also helps some of the other entities in town like the school and the downtown. I think this is just fantastic."
"I'm really excited about this," added council member Pat Thackery. "We have a housing issue in the community anyway, and if we get some senior housing, that's going to open up some housing that seniors are moving out of so others can move in there, and that's going to help the housing overall. I'm excited. And we need exciting things like this to happen in town and they're happening."
As part of the proposed development, the council unanimously passed another resolution authorizing the acquisition of certain properties, an agency agreement with the Community Improvement Corporation of Champaign County to negotiate with a buyer to purchase and develop said properties, declaring said properties to be no longer needed for public purposes and to authorize the sale of said propertes.
CIC Economic Director Marcia Bailey explained that the Urbana school board passed a resolution last week approving the sale of North and South elementaries to the city for a dollar a building. The school board set the purchase price of both buildings at $354,000, to which Flaherty and Collins has agreed.
"I see a trend where all the good things that seem to keep happening are coming through collaboration, through another party and party deals," Hoffman said. "Everything's happening with two and three and four, even five people involved, and I think that's not anything that we've had for a long time that I can remember. The group that we have up here now is working some pretty nice deals for the city, and I think our citizens recognize that."
The Douglas Inn is privately owned and further action will not be required fromt he council to authorize its sale.
A plan to redevelop a long-vacant hotel in downtown Urbana could also provide new life to two elementary schools that would otherwise be slated for demolition.
The Urbana City School District, the city of Urbana and the owners of the former Douglas Hotel are working on a proposal that could turn the vacant inn, as well as North and South Elementary Schools in Urbana, into affordable senior housing, Mayor Bill Bean said. Those entities are working with the Champaign Economic Partnership and Flaherty and Collins Properties, a developer based in Indianapolis.
The deal initially focused on finding a suitable use for the Douglas, which has been vacant for more than a decade, Bean said. But that site didn’t have enough rooms available to make the project viable so the developer also looked at the two elementary schools.
The school district is building a new high school on the same site as the current high school, as well as a preschool-eighth grade school and between Vintage Drive-Thru and Campground Road on the south side of town. With the new primary school under construction, the district’s three elementary schools were likely to be demolished, district Superintendent Charles Thiel said.
If the new project moves forward, it could redevelop a longtime eyesore downtown, find a new use for two of the school district’s aging buildings and provide more senior housing options for residents, Bean said.
The owners of the Douglas and staff from Flaherty and Collins couldn’t be reached for comment.
Several attempts have been made to redevelop the downtown hotel since it closed more than a decade ago. But renovations would be costly, Bean said, and finding a viable project has been difficult. The hotel was a local landmark and a popular business for years but most recently it’s been an eyesore, he said.
The city would only need to take over the two school buildings since the hotel is currently owned by a private entity.
“As far as I’m concerned, that hotel is a cancer in downtown Urbana,” Bean said.
Converting the hotel into senior housing would draw more foot traffic downtown, create jobs and benefit local businesses and restaurants, he said. Urbana’s Board of Zoning and Appeals recently approved a zoning change, approving two conditional use permits for the city school buildings that would allow them to be used for senior housing, said Marty Hess, a city council and BZA member.
“It’s going to be a boon for downtown Urbana if we can get this done,” Bean said.
Under the proposal, the school district would transfer the two properties to the city, and the CEP would transfer the properties to the developer, said Marcia Bailey, economic development director for the CEP.
The developer is seeking a grant from the Ohio Fair Housing agency in mid-February, Bailey said. The developer also is applying for historic tax credits later in the year to make the plan more affordable, she said, so all sides are working on a tight timeline.
Even if the developer doesn’t receive the credits this year, it would still be interested in applying next year, Bailey said. But the organizations are also discussing an agreement to make sure the city isn’t stuck with two school buildings if the deal falls through, she said.
“If we can get that historic building redeveloped, it just changes the whole landscape of downtown Urbana,” Bailey said.
The school district has funding available as part of its construction project to tear down unused buildings, Thiel said. Most of the money set aside for demolition would be returned to the state if the buildings are saved, he said. If this proposal falls through, there aren’t viable reasons for the district to maintain those properties.
The district has heard some interest from parties interested in East Elementary School, which isn’t included in this proposal, Thiel said. But there are no specific deals moving forward for that property at this point.
“There’s a large faction of the community that would like to keep and maintain those buildings for their history,” he said of North and South elementaries. “If it can be reused and repurposed that would be ideal, and the total project would be a win for the community.”
The Springfield News-Sun provides unmatched coverage of jobs and the economy in Clark and Champaign counties, including recent stories tracking unemployment rates and digging into expansion plans at Topre.
By the numbers
$35 million: Estimated cost to build a new elementary school in Urbana.
2: Of the three Urbana elementary schools that might be reused for senior housing
3: Total properties involved in senior housing plan — 2 elementary schools and the Douglas Hotel
10-15: Years that the Douglas Hotel has been vacant
Key among questions at the meeting regarded tax reform legislation that was passed this week by the House and Senate. Regarding the legislation’s plan to reduce the federal corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent, he said, employers will “plow that extra 14 percent back into their businesses … That is a good thing for all of us and a good thing for our country.”
Jordan also spoke about his desire for a second special counsel to be appointed to investigate the FBI’s activity in the Clinton investigation.
Last month, in another meeting organized by the CEP, Jordan spoke with representatives of local manufacturing companies.
The company is also boosting its payroll and spending at least $500,000 in new equipment as part of an expansion valued at around $2.7 million, said Marcia Bailey, economic development coordinator for the Champaign Economic Partnership.
Weidmann, a Swiss-based company, produces specialty insulation for transformers. The expansion is expected to be complete by March next year. The company currently has about 140 workers.
“We’re looking at increasing our capacity within the facility,” said Mark Hunter, plant controller at Weidmann. “Since we opened our doors in 2011, we’ve gone from initially 75 employees and we’re expected to be around 164. We’ve just grown so much in terms of our business and because of that to be able to maintain increased sales, we needed to add more space onto our facility.”
Documents filed with local government entities show the company will add 20 workers as part of the expansion, but the manufacturer hired four additional workers just before making the announcement, for a total of 24 workers, Hunter said. The new jobs will include a variety of position, from forklift operators to maintenance technicians, as well as line workers and a safety coordinator.
The company will add a roughly $500,000 piece of equipment used to cut the paper produced at the company, in addition to the expansion and new jobs, Hunter said.
The company’s current payroll is a little more than $9 million and it will add about $835,000 as part of the expansion, Bailey said.
Local school districts and the city of Urbana approved a Community Reinvestment Area agreement that will provide a 100-percent property tax abatement for 15 years for the addition to the facility, Bailey said. The company will continue to pay its full share of taxes on its existing payroll and property, but will receive an abatement for the expansion.
The city and Urbana school district will split income taxes from the additional payroll evenly, she said.
OhioMeansJobs Champaign County will also work with the company to provide training for the existing employees who need additional training to operate the new equipment, Bailey said.
The company’s growth has been a bright spot in Champaign County’s economy, Bailey said. Weidmann initially took a leap of faith and pledged to provide jobs for 75 workers when the business moved into the former Neenah Paper Inc. site on West Court Street.
Neenah had closed a paper mill at the site in 2007, leaving about 180 workers without jobs. The property was a brownfield site, she said, and Weidmann’s decision to invest in the property reopened a site that could have become an eyesore.
“They’ve doubled the expectation from when they first came,” Bailey said of the company’s growth since it opened in Urbana. “They’ve kept the integrity of the historic building and they’ve been a great asset in the neighborhood as well.”
Along with the Weidmann announcement, the city also reached an agreement with a local developer this month to clean up the former Q3 and Johnson Manufacturing site that’s been vacant since 2008. True Inspection Services, an Urbana-based developer, will clean up and redevelop the 20-acre site at Miami and Beech streets.
City leaders have said the redevelopment of that property is expected to take two years and may begin as soon as next month.
The Springfield News-Sun provides award-winning coverage of jobs and the economy in Clark and Champaign counties, including stories tracking local unemployment rates and digging into expansion plans at major employers like Honda.
By the numbers
24 — Total new jobs to be added, including 4 recent hires
2,600 square feet — size of the expansion
$834,000 — New payroll to be added
$9M — Company’s current estimated payroll
URBANA — A historic, vacant building in the heart of downtown Urbana might get new life if tax credits are approved by the state.
The building that once housed Little Nashville, a bar just south of the roundabout, has been empty for two years and investor John Doss with Dye and Doss Insurance wants to change that.
“I didn’t really see any prospects of anybody doing anything with it,” Doss said as to why he decided to take up the project. “And besides that, in the ’40s and ’50s, my grandfather owned it. So it’s kind of a sentimental place.”
His insurance office is just south of the old bar. An application for historic tax credits filed with the Ohio Development Service Agency shows the total cost to renovate the 4,475-squarefoot building will be about $222,000. The building will house one office inside and have two residential spaces on the second floor.
Doss has requested $31,000 in tax credits, which are sold to investors to provide money for the development. He said he hopes to have the project completed by next summer.
“The historic tax program is a pretty good deal and it is really nice for small buildings,” he said. “The tax credits makes this project a viable thing.”
Putting buildings to use in downtown Urbana helps everyone in the community, said Marcia Bailey, economic development coordinator for the Champaign County Economic Partnership.
“We have a beautiful downtown with our historic overlay,” she said. “The more we can preserve and restore those buildings, the better our downtown will be.”
She took a tour of the building with Doss after he bought it about a year ago and said it has a lot of opportunity.
“Any new business is more than welcomed,” she said. “The foot traffic will benefit every business in downtown Urbana.”
READ MORE from staff writer Parker Perry at the Springfield News-Sun.
by Joshua Keeran, Urbana Daily Citizen
Navistar, one of the area’s largest employers, revealed plans for its new Urbana distribution center during a groundbreaking ceremony held Thursday at the Urbana Industrial Park on the city’s south side.
At an estimated price tag of $12 million, the 355,000-square-foot facility at 1155 Phoenix Drive is under construction and expected to be completed by Dec. 1. Once up and running, the facility is expected to house inventory for Navistar that could total up to $16 million.
“It’s a very exciting time for Navistar here in the great state of Ohio,” said Edward Franklin, senior manager of supply chain operations at Navistar.
Earlier this year, Franklin said, the company started production on a second assembly line at its Springfield assembly plant as part of an agreement with General Motors in which Navistar is manufacturing cutaway models of GM’s G Van.
“This facility will help us sustain our new relationship with GM as well as give us the opportunity to sustain our product portfolio growth in the future,” he said. “I’m very excited to get all our material and be able to consolidate it into one place here in Urbana.”
Located on property owned by Damewood Enterprises Limited, the new distribution center is being built by Dublin Building Systems. Once complete, the facility will be leased by Damewood Enterprises to Navistar.
Rich Irelan, vice president of sales and marketing for Dublin Building Systems, said his company is “committed to hitting” the target completion date of Dec. 1, and he said meeting such a deadline is obtainable thanks to the city’s willingness to see the project through.
“It’s so refreshing to work in the city of Urbana,” Irelan said. “We are going to promote more business in Urbana, Ohio, for sure.”
Speaking on behalf of Damewood Enterprises, Brad Damewood said, “We are very grateful for the opportunity to participate in this project,” and he added it wouldn’t have been a possibility without the help of Marcia Bailey (Champaign Economic Partnership executive director) and the support of a tax abatement agreement by Urbana City Council and Urbana City Schools Board of Education.
“I’m sure Navistar had plenty of options for build-to-suit locations as well as exciting buildings,” he said. “One of the things that allowed Urbana to be the site chosen was the tax abatement.”
The agreed upon Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) agreement grants Damewood Enterprises a 10-year, 100 percent tax exemption of real property tax.
Impact on local community
While Bailey acknowledged the new distribution center will result in at least a $28 million investment into the area ($12 million into the building and $16 million in inventory), she said the biggest winner in the deal is the local community from a jobs standpoint.
“We were able to save 114 jobs here in our community that could have went to another community,” she said. “We are looking at another 40 coming in either from another facility or new employment all together.”
In the CRA agreement, Navistar stated its plans with the new facility are to retain the 114 employees currently employed at its ODW Logistics facility (located at 1030 S. Edgewood Ave.), transfer 27 full-time jobs from Xenia to Urbana, and create 13 new full-time jobs.
Bailey said the distribution center will have a payroll of nearly $7 million.
Urbana Mayor Bill Bean added the city has been able to build great relationships over the years that has led to the numerous construction projects underway from two new school buildings to new commercial properties like the Navistar distribution center and a new medical center for Marysville-based Memorial Health.
“We have a lot of things going on. A lot of growth, and this (Navistar facility) is part of it,” he said. “Without good partners, we couldn’t do this.”
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-508-2304 or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.
By Joshua Keeran - Urbana Daily Citizen
The local Tax Incentive Review Council (TIRC) voted Thursday to recommend local governments continue with all current enterprise zone, Community Reinvestment Area (CRA) and Tax Incentive Fund (TIF) agreements.
In economically depressed areas of the city and county where business growth is encouraged, TIRC members unanimously recommended local government leaders continue their enterprise zone agreements with KTH Parts Industries, the American Pan Company and the Ultra-met Company.
Marcia Bailey, economic development director for the Champaign Economic Partnership, presided over the meeting and said the deal with KTH, 1111 N. state Route 235 in St. Paris, is a 100 percent tax abatement for 10 years that expired Dec. 31, 2016, but will continue through through the current tax collection period. The company agreed to commit at least $3.07 million in real property over the 10-year period and retain 92 jobs.
To date, Bailey said, KTH has invested $4.2 million in real property and kept the promised 92 positions.
As for taxes abated thus far as a result of the agreement, Champaign County Auditor Karen Bailey reported the total stands at $1,299,616.
Located at 417 E. Water St. in Urbana, the American Pan Company agreed to a 10-year, 75 percent tax abatement (through Dec. 1, 2022) in return for the creation of 33 jobs, retention of 154 positions, and a real property investment of $1.9 million.
Marcia Bailey said the company has created 55 jobs, retained 154 and invested $1.9 million. To date, $158,729 in taxes have been abated.
Ultra-met’s enterprise zone agreement involves the company, located at 120 Fyffe St. in Urbana, receiving a 75 percent abatement for 10 years in return for investments of $510,000 in real property and $1.5 million in personal property, as well as the creation of 10 jobs and retention of 30 positions.
The company has met the requirements, having invested the pledged amounts, created 11 new jobs, and retained 30 positions.
The amount of taxes abated to date under the agreement total $27,283.
Community Reinvestment Area contracts
The three active CRA agreements – tax exemption deals benefiting property owners who renovate existing or construct new buildings – currently on the books within the county received positive feedback from TIRC members, who unanimously voted to recommend the contracts remain in place.
The longest running of the three CRA agreements involves the 10-unit T-hangar at Grimes Field in Urbana. Since 2002, $78,749 in taxes have been abated in a deal in which Gerald Shiffer, the original applicant, received a 50 percent tax abatement for 15 years on the hangar in return for an investment of $325,000 in real property, the creation of one job, and the retention of another job.
Marcia Bailey said at the present date, $330,000 has been invested, one job was created, and one position retained.
A CRA agreement granting White’s Service Center, 1325 N. Main St., Urbana, a 50 percent abatement for 10 years has been on the books since 2010, but the business has yet to request the tax abatement be activated, Bailey said.
If the business were to ask for the abatement to take effect, it would need to meet its obligations. These include a $250,000 investment in real property, the creation of one job, and the retention of one job.
The most recent CRA agreement to have gone into effect involves three buildings at KTH. In return for a 100 percent tax abatement for 15 years, the St.Paris-based company has committed to retain 815 employees, create 20 new jobs, and invest $6.7 million.
To date, Marcia Bailey said, the company has retained 815 jobs, created 20, and invested $6.79 million.
The amount of taxes abated since the tax exemption took effect in 2015 stands at $44,682.
During the meeting, a KTH representative reported the company, as of the end of February, employs 1,139 individuals.
Tax Incentive Fund
TIRC members unanimously agreed that a 10-year TIF agreement used by the city of Urbana to help pay for improvements on Scioto Street through 2021 should continue.
The six properties involved in the agreement have paid the following amounts into the fund since 2012 (listed by name of the business or businesses currently operating on the property): Aaron Rents ($44,199), Clark Station ($17,607), DaVita Midwest Urbana Dialysis/Mercy Memorial Wound Care Center ($44,480), McDonald’s ($48,393), Ohio Auto Loan Services ($22,814) and Family Dentistry/Wright-Patt Credit Union/Mary Rutan Hospital ($35,835).