$15M renovation of historic Springfield site may draw more downtown

6:30 p.m Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017 Business

A vacant building in downtown Springfield that was nearly torn down has received $2 million in state historic tax credits that will be used to renovate it for apartments.

The total cost to renovate the Edward Wren Co. Building, more recently known as the McAdams Building, will be more than $15.3 million, according to the Ohio Development Services Agency.

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The downtown Springfield project is one of 22 historic sites in 11 communities to share more than $28.3 million in Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits.

The property at 31 E. High St was built in 1921 as a department store and bank in the heart of downtown Springfield, according to its tax credit application. It will be revitalized as 28 market-rate apartments with a ground floor restaurant space, the state agency says.

Adding more residential space will spark additional growth in downtown Springfield, said Kevin Rose, director of revitalization of the Turner Foundation. The property is owned by the Wren Building Partners, which was set up by the Turner Foundation.

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Life is coming back into the urban core, he said, but downtown living is needed to sustain or enhance it.

“You are not going to turn around downtown if people are not living there, if people are not there in the evenings, on the weekends, walking their dog, grabbing a pizza, going out to dinner,” Rose said.

Winan’s Chocolates and Coffee Shop Co-Owner Travis Vanvoorhis said it was a risk placing the business in downtown Springfield. But it’s one he’s glad he took.

“Oh, it’s been fantastic,” Vanvoorhis said. “We are way over projection of what we’ve initially thought we would do.”

More businesses have moved in, he said, and a bakery will soon be the coffee shop’s neighbor.

“The bakery told me they would never come down here if it was by themselves,” Vanvoorhis said. “What better businesses to have than to have a chocolate and coffee shop with a bakery.”

He’s pleased to hear about the historic tax credits for the Wren building. He hopes the announcement attracts people and investors.

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The tax credits make the project possible but it’s not a guarantee of redevelopment, Rose said. It will be a significant investment, he said, and the market is depressed.

“We have low value in the downtown so it makes it difficult to finance a project like that,” Rose said.

The tax credits are sold to investors, which provides financing for redevelopment projects.

The new apartments will be a big boost to area businesses, Rose said, and will also add more storefronts. Downtown Springfield need more to viable, he said.

Cities like Hamilton and Canton used downtown living spaces as a catalyst for a wider revitalization and growth, Rose said.

Many of the buildings that received historic tax credits across Ohio are vacant and generate little economic activity, according to the Ohio Development Services Agency. Developers don’t receive the tax credits until project construction is complete and all program requirements are verified, the agency said.

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