Urbana building awarded historic tax credits

4:14 p.m Wednesday, June 28, 2017 Community News
A downtown Urbana building, that used to contain the Little Nashville bar, was one of several Wednesday to receive Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits. Bill Lackey/Staff

A vacant downtown Urbana building is expected to get new life after the Ohio Development Services Agency announced Wednesday the site will receive more than $30,000 in Ohio Historic Preservation tax credits.

John Doss, who purchased the building at 115 to 117 S. Main St. about a year ago, said he plans to spend about $220,000 to renovate the historic building that his grandfather once owned. Once complete, it will likely include space for upstairs apartments and a downtown storefront, although the plans have not been finalized. The property previously housed the former Little Nashville bar, but has been vacant since 2013.

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It will also be the first time historic preservation tax credits have been awarded for a project in Urbana, according to information from the ODSA. It’s too early to say what the final layout will look like at this point, Doss said.

“We’ve got a floor plan done but we’ve got to go through the permitting process to see if we can do what we want to and make sure we still comply,”” Doss said. “We’re sort of still in the beginning stages and probably won’t start until the fall so we won’t know for a couple months.”

Doss’ business, the Dye and Doss Insurance agency, is just south of the former bar. The Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program provides an incentive to leverage the private redevelopment of historic buildings, according to information from the program.

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Renovating the building will eliminate one more vacant property downtown and could potentially draw more business and foot traffic downtown, said Marcia Bailey, economic development coordinator for the Champaign Economic Partnership. The CEP is in charge of economic development in Champaign County. City officials also wrote a letter attached to Doss’ application, pointing out the credits would help improve the community.

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“It adds another dynamic to our downtown to get another building renovated and back in use,” Bailey said. “Each time properties are transferred it’s always an opportunity to have a higher value of property in downtown.”

The project would be difficult to complete without the tax credits, Doss said. Major restoration projects are sometimes harder to complete in communities like Urbana because there are fewer investors interested in renting the property, he said.

“In Columbus you’re doing it because you’re going to make money,” Doss said. “In Urbana you’re doing it because you live there. There’s no big profit at the end.”

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The Urbana project was one of 13 communities across Ohio that received awards for rehabbing historic structures, according to the ODSA. In all, the agency awarded almost $35 million in tax credits to rehabilitate a total of 36 buildings across the state.

In Dayton, the state also awarded credits for separate projects to renovate a vacant building at 1500 E. 5th St., and $5 million in tax credits for the Dayton Arcade-Fourth Street project, which includes three buildings.

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The Urbana building needs significant repair, so the tax credits provide important leverage to make needed repairs, Doss said. Doss said some renovations were made in the 1980s, but since then the building has largely gone untouched.

“The cost of these buildings to renovate and bring them up to code is expensive,” Doss said. “We’re not in a big city where they get $14 per square foot for rent. We’re more like $5 so it’s just different. That’s why the tax credit project helps. It gives you the incentive to do it and cuts the cost.”