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.”
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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 of to renovate the 4,475-square-foot 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.”
Urbana officials have helped with the project. The city wrote a letter that was attached to the tax credit application. Kerry Brugger, Urbana director of administration, said getting the tax credits would improve the community.
“This can eliminate a vacant building,” he said. “When there are vacant buildings, you invite elements you don’t want in your downtown.”
The city wrote the letter to the state to help downtown, Brugger said.
“Anytime you have a vacant building, it’s an eyesore,” he said.
The application also calls it an eyesore. The outside of the building faces Main Street and shows significant signs of wear. But Doss said he’s happy that much of the building hasn’t been tampered with and the design is the same as it was when it was first built in the 1800s.
“It’s still pretty original,” he said.
Another thing he likes about the building is the residential units upstairs. Although the apartments aren’t particularly big, he said having more people moving in and living in downtown Urbana will help the area thrive again. Bailey said research shows there’s a market for people who want to move downtown.
“It’s becoming something that is more and more needed in our downtown,” she said. “I just recently finished up a survey on our local manufacturing engineers as well as their employees and with the rough information that I have, I’m seeing they are looking for some other form of residence besides buying a house — they’re looking for something unique. Downtown lofts could become very popular.”
Doss said property owner won’t make as much money renting lofts in Urbana as in other communities, but could still help the community grow by offering them. Add in the new schools being built and Doss said he’s excited to find out what the future holds for the city.
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