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Historic Springfield site faced demolition, now may be $17M apartments

The Turner Foundation is seeking $2 million in state tax credits that could convert an abandoned downtown Springfield building into 56 market-rate apartments.

The credits, if approved, would provide an incentive to developers for what could be a roughly $17 million project to restore and add an addition onto the Edward Wren Co. Building, said Kevin Rose, historian and director of revitalization for the Turner Foundation. The Wren Co. site, at 31 E. High St., is also known as the McAdams Building.

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The project narrowly lost out on an application for historic state tax credits in a previous round of funding, Rose said, but local leaders are optimistic the project will eventually move forward. The Ohio Development Services Agency oversees the application process. Developers would likely also seek federal tax credits to make the project viable.

This year, the program received more than 50 applications for various projects across Ohio, valued at more than $67 million if all requests were granted, according to information from the OSDA. The grant process is competitive.

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The building was nearly demolished but could become a key piece of local efforts to draw more residents and businesses downtown, Rose said. The tax credits will make the project more feasible for potential developers, he said.

“Residential development is the next important step in revitalizing our city’s core,” said Michael McDorman, president and CEO of the Chamber of Greater Springfield. Officials from the chamber and city recently visited cities like Canton, Cleveland and Akron to see how those municipalities have worked to spur new development.

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“You don’t have to look very far to see what is happening in downtowns all across Ohio with regard to residential development downtown,” McDorman said.

If approved, the project would renovate the existing structure and add a 20,000 square foot addition on what is now a parking lot to the west of the property, Rose said. Along with the 56 apartments, it would also provide space on the first floor for four to eight retail spaces like restaurants and other amenities.

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The site has historic value as the only building downtown built as a department store, Rose said. But other more important historic sites have already been torn down over the years. The building’s real appeal is its location in the center of downtown.

“It’s in the core block, it’s within a half block of two great downtown restaurants, it’s within a block of our two downtown coffee shops,” Rose said. “The performing arts center is right behind it. The Springfield YMCA is a block away. When you look at the amenities that surround it, there’s no better place to live in downtown Springfield.”

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One of those coffee shops is Winan’s. Co-owner Travis Van Voorhis said the business gets lots of foot traffic but adding more apartments downtown would add to their customers.

“That would really improve downtown … That’s a plus. I know a lot of cities are trying to do that,” he said.

Demolition had started on the building before the Turner Foundation stepped in with a proposal to restore the property. Information from the Clark County Auditor’s Office shows the property is owned by Wren Building Partners. The company’s incorporator is listed as the Turner Foundation on the Ohio secretary of state’s website.

It purchased the Wren site for $278,000, according to the Clark County Auditor’s Office.

“We’re not saving this building because it’s a historic landmark,” Rose said. “We’re saving it because it makes economic sense for our community. Losing it for a parking lot or losing it for new construction is a loss for our community in so many ways.”

The Turner Foundation also redeveloped a small number of new units at Deitzel Apartments and Johnson Flats, both on Main Street. Those properties filled quickly, Rose said, but it was a much smaller scale project.

If the tax credits are secured, the next step will be to find a developer to invest in the property and manage the site.

“What we hope is that we’re going to see some development partners step up and want to invest in Springfield,” Rose said. “We’re going to be bringing investment into our community and we see this in towns across the state where developers come together to make a project like this work.”

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