Historic downtown Springfield building could become apartments

March 06, 2017

A nearly 100 year old vacant building in downtown Springfield could see new life in the form of up to 30 apartments and three business spaces, should a developer’s plans be approved for historic tax credits.

The Edward Wren Co. Building, 31 E. High St., also known as the McAdams Building, was built in 1921 and is now owned by Wellington Square, a real estate arm of the Turner Foundation, which saved it from demolition in 2015.

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“We’re excited that this building that was going to be a flat vacant lot is moving closer and closer to the possibility of having an active life,” said Kevin Rose, director of revitalization for the Turner Foundation.

The building’s ownership is being transferred over to Wren Building Partners LLC, Rose said. The company’s incorporator is listed as the Turner Foundation on the Ohio Secretary of State’s website.

City commissioners unanimously voted this week to approve a resolution identifying the project as a high priority for the city.

“This is a great opportunity for Springfield,” Mayor Warren Copeland said. “It means the downtown businesses will have some people living there who can spend money in their places.”

The city’s resolution was needed to move forward with the application for federal and state historic tax credits, Rose said.

“We’re still solidifying plans or at least first phase plans of what we want to do,” he said.

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Those plans will be submitted soon, he said. Approved applications will be announced before the end of June, according to the state’s historic preservation tax credit website.

The Turner Foundation has recently redeveloped the Deitzel Apartments and Johnson Flats, both on Main Street. But those projects were much smaller, Rose said.

“This is a much larger scale than that,” he said.

But housing is the key to revitalizing a downtown, Rose said.

“There’s always the discussion of what comes first?” he said. “The growth of business or housing? And the answer is housing.”

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He’s seen success in other Ohio downtowns that take that approach, he said, like Hamilton, Canton and Cleveland.

“The success of downtown is going to be the success of the community,” he said.

New apartments could mean a boom in business for nearby restaurant, Seasons Bistro and Grille, which is just steps away from the Wren Building on South Limestone Street.

“It’s right across the street basically,” Co-owner and Chef Doug McGregor said. “It could mean better lunch and dinner business for us.”

McGregor and his sister chose to open the restaurant downtown nine years ago.

“It used to be a busy hopping place and we’d like it to be that way again,” he said.

Copeland sees the plans as part of a trend of young professionals and empty nesters wanting to move to downtown areas.

“Now the question is, can there be enough (people) to fill that building up?” he said. “There’s only one way to figure that out and it’s to try … I really hope it’s very successful.”

The building was purchased by Wellington Square in 2015 for $185,000. Demolition on it had already begun to the inside, Rose said at the city commission meeting Tuesday. The demolition work is a benefit to developers, Rose said, because it removed infrastructure that would need to be taken out in order to rebuild.