Owner of the building and developer Jamon Sellman said during a groundbreaking ceremony Friday that the project is part of an effort to revitalize downtown Urbana and encourage people to live and work there.
“This is very exciting for our community,” Sellman said. “I do believe piece by piece we are changing the downtown community.”
The total budget for the project is $2.9 million, and a tax credit of $499,998 will be awarded to Sellman for the rehabilitation of the buildings. Sellman received an $800,000 grant from JobsOhio’s Vibrant Community Program, that is almost exclusively for co-work space development.
The 215 property, a two-story commercial building, and the 217 property, a three-story commercial building, originally were two separate retail spaces. The first floor was connected to each other in the 1950s, but they retain much of the “original character,” according to the Ohio Department of Development.
The property housed the former Willman Furniture buildings, which closed in late summer of 2022 after being open for decades. The property was purchased by Sellman through an LLC (Willman Sellman Improvements LLC) in February, said Doug Crabill, Urbana’s Community Development manager.
The building will be named the Willman Building and become a hybrid co-working and business incubator on the first floor called WillWork, with residential space in the upper two floors called Willman Lofts.
Scott Ryan, the Ohio Department of Development’s chief of community engagement, said that the project is an “investment in the past to fuel our future.” He said historic buildings and economic development attracts residents and visitors.
“It’s not secret that it’s expensive to rehabilitate historic buildings and the developer’s and owner’s passion alone is often not enough to make these projects happen,” Ryan said. “That’s why this program is so important; these tax credits provide a tangible incentive for individuals, businesses and organizations to engage in the preservation of our state’s historical architecture.”
JobsOhio Vice President Terry Slaybaugh said that the project is part of an economic renaissance in the state.
Urbana community development manager Doug Crabill said that with the redevelopment and reinvestment in historic spaces, as well as new business and housing opportunities, the coworking and living space is building on downtown momentum. He said that the furniture store closing was a temporary setback that will be undone by the project.
“So to see this coming together, to bring this forward and make something happen with this building, that’s going to be very spectacular for this community. This is a great day,” Crabill said.