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Lancaster Eagle-Gazette

Developer gets state tax credit needed to renovate the Essex building

By Jeff Barron, Lancaster Eagle-Gazette,

2023-03-14
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LANCASTER − If anyone sees Mayor David Scheffler doing backflips down the street, you're not seeing things. He's just happy Urban Restorations got the $3.2 million tax credit it needed to renovate the Essex building at the corner of North Columbus and Mulberry streets.

"After working on something for two years and to finally see it happen, I'm so happy I could do backflips," Scheffler said.

Urban Restorations President Bob Schilling said he's not in good enough shape to join Scheffler's backflipping endeavor. But he said he is glad the Ohio Department of Development finally award the Columbus-based company the credit after denying the credit in December. The credit is part of a $17.5 million award the ODD distributed for historic preservation across the state.

Urban Restorations previously received a federal tax credit of 20% of the renovation cost.

"It's a big piece from the state," Schilling said. "It was crucial to getting the project underway. It was contingent on that for the financing."

Urban Restorations plans to buy the approximate 138,000-square-foot building from owner Kevin Stalter for about $900,000. Schilling said it would cost about $20 million to renovate the building for about 60 apartments on the second and third floors and retail space on the first floor. The work should take about 24 months.

He said the last part before starting the renovation is for ground testing of cleaning fluids from a previous occupant of the building. The final testing results are expected in two to four weeks. Schilling said the results so far have been encouraging.

"The building is really in good shape except for that particular chemical, and it's down underneath the building," he said. "They're just testing everything to make sure it's contained, which they feel it is. It's just a matter of putting in a system to allow it to evaporate away from the building."

Once that testing is finished, Schilling said the renovation work could start early summer, with some demolition work before then.

The last occupant of the Essex building was Fairfield Industries, then a division of the Fairfield County Board of Developmental Disabilities. It moved out of the building in 2005 and the building has stood vacant since.

The building dates to between 1900 and 1910 when it was originally the Fairfield Shoe Company. Schilling said the building's industrial look will be built into the renovation.

He also said his company loves the Lancaster area.

"It's an expanding market that we're going to help expand in that particular part of downtown that kind of stands as a wall," Schilling said. "The building is a wall. But it's about to become a gateway to rest of that area. It's a project that facilitates other project. I guess they call that a catalyst project because it pulls other projects along with it. So it's really going to improve that whole area and will be really good for Lancaster and be good for the whole community."

jbarron@gannett.com

740-681-4340

Twitter: @JeffDBarron

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