By: Jenna Lawson, WHIO
View video of the announcement on WHIO's website
There were many points in the last five years that community partners thought ‘Legacy Place’ might never happen.
It took time to capture nearly $13 million in funding sources, including historic tax credits – not to mention delays due to the pandemic. But on Thursday, partners announced the funds were released and they are able to move forward with the project. It’s possible construction could start within the next week.
‘Legacy Place’ transforms the Douglas Inn in downtown Urbana and two former elementary schools (North & South) into affordable senior housing. 51 units will be created for those 55 and older, with six of them being devoted to people with disabilities.
“It’s just a real renaissance for Urbana,” Mayor Bill Bean told News Center 7′s Jenna Lawson.
Duane Miller, with development company Flaherty & Collins and also president of F & C Legacy Place, said the project accomplishes two goals: turning three vacant properties into useful properties and filling the need for affordable senior housing in Urbana.
“I love to jump into the skin of a community that’s looking for help and looking for opportunities to spur on their own development,” he said.
The Douglas has been vacant since 2004 and has long been a large eyesore on the southwest corner of Monument Square. The building has somewhat deteriorated and was the target of multiple arson fires in 2019.
The former owner of the property, John Doss, has done work to stabilize the structure. The elementary schools, despite being about 100 years old, are in solid shape, partners said.
The timeline for the project will move quickly. Developers estimate about six months to complete both elementary schools and a little over a year to finish the Douglas. Partners are hopeful that the project will have a positive domino effect on other aspects of Urbana living including neighboring businesses and housing.
“We may see some of those seniors who may move in here and now their single family homes are available for a new families to move in,” said director of the Champaign Economic Partnership, Marcia Bailey.
Bailey added that this solution also preserves the history of all three buildings for the community to enjoy for decades to come. “Having these buildings standing as they are and being repurposed is a huge win for our community,” she said.
Other partners in the project include the City of Urbana, Urbana City Schools and Resident Supports and Services, Inc., which provides housing for seniors and adults with developmental disabilities.
The U.S. Census Bureau is working in Champaign County to complete the 2020 Census by September 30, 2020. Field data operations are underway with census takers visiting households throughout Champaign County that have not yet responded to the 2020 Census. Prior to their deployment into local communities, census takers underwent COVID-19 training on social distancing and related health and safety protocols. The Census Bureau has provided face masks to every census taker and mandated that all census takers wear one. In addition, census takers carry an ID badge that includes their photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark, and an expiration date.
Through the end of September, households can continue to respond online at www.2020census.gov, on paper, by phone by calling (1-844-330-2020), or in person with a census taker.
As of September 8, 2020, the national self-response rate to the 2020 Census is 65.5% and 69.6% for the State of Ohio. Locally, 2020 self-response rates are as follows (with 2010 self-response rates shown in parentheses):
To date, Champaign County has the 28th best self-response rate out of 88 Ohio counties. Regionally, the self-response rate in surrounding counties is as follows:
Furthermore, as of September 8, 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 91.2% of Ohio housing units have been enumerated with 21.6% being counted by census takers and the remaining 69.6% of households self-responding. Nationally, over 88% of households have been enumerated to date.
To keep up with increasing orders, Rittal is recruiting 40 more assemblers, machine operators and welders to join its total Urbana workforce of more than 500, Love says.
In addition, Rittal recently invested more than $3 million in state-of-the-art equipment to form metal for IT enclosures.
News like this, during the pandemic, is very encouraging,” says CEP Director Marcia Bailey. “Champaign County is fortunate to have a diverse mix of businesses and employers like Rittal who are growing, planning for the future and providing new jobs for our community.”
Rittal is investing in current and future workforce needs, Love said. Here are three examples:
· Apprenticeships to develop engineers: Rittal, partnering with ApprenticeOhio and Clark State Community College, has three four-year apprentices – one in industrial engineering and two in maintenance engineering.
David Vanderveen, an assembler at Rittal for six years, is the industrial engineering apprentice. He was looking into returning to school for engineering when Rittal announced the apprenticeship. About Vanderveen, Love says: “He’s one of those hidden gems you have in your organization. He’s growing very quickly and showing great potential in his apprenticeship.”
Love adds, “Increasingly there is a drive for apprenticeships, as we have less people with technical backgrounds in the workplace. It’s a great way to grow our capability.” And it provides the Rittal apprentices the chance to advance their careers while being paid and avoiding debt from education.
Vanderveen is working under the mentorship of Rittal Industrial Manager Steve Butka, while studying online through Clark State. He will begin in-person labs at Clark State this fall.
· Partnership with TAC (The Abilities Connection): TAC, which serves and employs people with developmental or physical disabilities, has placed five associates who support Rittal’s industrial engineering team. They cut gaskets for IT racks and complete other tasks as needed.
Claus Wolf, Rittal’s Sourcing and Procurement Manager, said that the partnership has “helped us as a business when hiring for open positions is challenging. And it’s helped us to connect with the wider community and to provide purposeful work” for TAC associates.
· Partnership with University of Dayton: A team of business undergraduates completed their senior capstone project at Rittal, for which they won the University of Dayton’s 2020 Outstanding Operations Senior Team of the Year Award.
Wolf said he gave the team free rein to investigate ways to reorganize Rittal’s wood-based product supply chain, including pallets. “They found a vendor that saved us more than $100,000. They found a solution that we couldn’t even when we tried several times,” Wolf said. Rittal plans to continue the partnership with an eye on expanding its talent pool.
The new Cobblestone Hotel & Suites in Urbana officially welcomed its first guests on Friday, June 12th!
Reservations are now available online at https://www.staycobblestone.com/oh/urbana/
Champaign County voters narrowly passed a five-year, 0.5-mill levy in April to build a new senior center on Patrick Avenue near Water Street. The current facility is located at the corner of Thompson and Walnut streets.
Passing with a 3,613-3,512 vote, the levy is expected to generate an estimated $458,000 a year, which Miller said will be used to repay a loan the senior center will acquire from Civista Bank. In 2019, the bank donated 2.2 acres behind its 601 Scioto St. location for a new senior center.
The senior center moved to its current site, a former church, in 1980. The senior center also owns and rents the house just south of the former church. Miller said these properties will be sold.
The new building and parking lot will offer many improvements, Miller and Barnhart said.
“There will be three times as much parking, at least 46 spaces,” Miller said.
The one-story 9,452-squarefoot structure, designed by Beasley Architecture & Design, will include larger pantry and kitchen areas, walk-in freezers, a large activity room, as well as game, meeting and conference rooms that will provide privacy when needed.
Members no longer will need to maneuver stairs and ramp, and carts of groceries no longer will need to be carefully guided up and down the ramp.
Barnhart said she looks forward to more pantry space and room to expand outreach services.
“We are always faced with a lack of space at our current center,” she said.
Both she and Miller said the need for senior center services will increase.
“Our senior population is growing tremendously in the county,” Miller said. “Right now, probably 23% of (the county’s) 40,000 are seniors.”
That includes diversifying as well as adding to available housing stock in the county, fostering more development of new homes and the redevelopment of old ones as well as preexisting buildings that can be converted to apartments and lofts.
One of the tasks of the housing consortium could be to look at existing zoning and rules in the county and what can be done to make them more conducive to current housing needs, said Marcia Bailey, the director of the Champaign Economic Partnership. That includes also focusing on multi-family housing options, instead of just on single family homes.
“We want development to occur where there is available or nearby infrastructure. We are an agricultural community and we want to be able to preserve agricultural land as well,” Bailey previously told the News-Sun.
A point she said they will continue to focus on.
Efforts to boost the local housing market were temporarily put on hold due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, Bailey said they are looking to hold conversations next month and hope to have the housing consortium up and running in the near future.
This follows a series of discussions held in the beginning of the year that went over some of the findings of the comprehensive housing study, which was conducted by the Greater Ohio Policy Center.
That organization, according to its website, “is focused on improving the communities of Ohio through growth strategies and research.
Bailey said that she wanted to continue having those conversations as housing is an issue that will not soon go away. She said that having available housing stock and looking at ways to grow the population is key to economic development in the county.
The News-Sun previously reported that lower housing stock, coupled with high demand has led to a continued stable market in the area even during the pandemic.
The study commissioned by the Champaign Economic Partnership looked at common housing challenges in the city of Urbana as well as the villages of Mechanicsburg, North Lewisburg and St. Paris. It also compared municipalities in the county to others in the state that are tackling similar problems such as having aging housing stock, a fair amount of blighted properties and limited land for new housing developments.
In Champaign County, it was noted that 75% of homes there were built before 1990, according to the Greater Ohio Policy Center.
Additionally, there has been a total of 324 permits filed in the county since 2010 for the construction of single family homes.
It was also found that about 80% of new home construction since 2010 has occurred outside municipal boundaries in the county.
“It can be within a township or another unincorporated territory,” said Maria Walliser-Wejebe, a research associate with the policy center, earlier this year.
The study cost about $40,000 and came from funds set aside by the Champaign County Commissioners that are to be used for economic development. In addition, the analysis offered a total of 22 recommendations that followed six main themes.
The recommendations fell into the categories of prioritizing down towns and main streets, ensuring that local governments are strong partners to development, protecting existing housing stock and preventing it from declining, having creative financing and funding strategies and maintaining affordability.
Other features include a News feed, Village Calendar, History page and Photo Gallery. Click on the image of the new site's home page below to take a virtual trip through North Lewisburg and bookmark the page for later use.
Graham 8th graders inducted into the program were Isabella Branam, Isaiah Branam, Whytney Faulkner, Ian Grider, Seth Huffman, Sarah Lewis, Elijah Melms, Tucker Nave, Mikal Rice, Landyn Simons and Robert Thomas.
Urbana 8th graders inducted were Madison Allen, Olivia Bean, Logan Dale, Trinity Ferrell, Jaminson Gansaulies, Zavian Groom, Amari Jones, Harley Lahrman, Taylor Ruthergord and Annabelle Sabchez.
The students will be the first in their families to receive college degrees.
So far, the Clark State Foundation has partnered with the Urbana and Graham school districts in Champaign County and with the Springfield City, Tecumseh Local and Clark-Shawnee Local school districts in Clark County for this program.
Applicants must be eligible for the free/reduced lunch program; achieve at least a 2.0 grade point average in the fourth quarter during seventh grade; and have parents who have not earned a bachelor’s degree at the time of application.
Eighth graders obtain applications from guidance counselor offices in September. After an interview and evaluation process, the top applicants in each participating school are inducted into the program.
To remain in the program, students must maintain at least a 2.0 grade point average and at least a 93% school attendance record, participate in at least 75% of program activities, exhibit good citizenship and take courses that prepare students for college.