Downtown Middletown project awarded $600K state tax credit

The Ohio Development Services Agency has awarded $600,000 in state historic renovation tax credits for the Goetz Tower project, located at the southeast corner of Central Avenue and South Main Street.

Developer Mike Robinette, a principle of Grassroots Ohio, said the state tax credits along with another $600,000 in federal tax credits will assist in moving the more than $3.07 million restoration project forward. The group already has private lender to finance the venture.

“It’s a crossroads for the project,” Robinette said. “We’ve been working on this for three years and it’s good to get the last element of funding out of the way.”

He said the seven-story, 30,000 square-foot structure, which houses a Fifth Third Bank branch, will include 24 market-rate apartments on the second through seventh floors. It also includes 2,000 square-feet of retail/commercial/restaurant space with a possible coffee shop, wine bar and bookstore when the project is completed. He said interior demolition and renovations could begin as early as March. The project is expected to take about 18 months and is tentatively slated for completion by fall 2016.

In addition to Robinette, the partnership group includes David Gose and is also working with historic building restoration experts Steve Coon, David Jursik and Joe Parsons.

The partnership group applied for the tax credits in September that will offset about half of the project’s cost, Robinette said.

The state awarded $41.8 million of the historic preservation tax credits for 31 projects across the state during this award cycle. These awards will be used to leverage $600 million in private investment for those projects. However, the developers do not get the tax credits until after the project construction is completed and all requirements have been verified. The goal is to get these properties rehabilitated so that it would drive future investment in those neighborhoods.

“This is the first large scale residential rehabilitation and renovation project in downtown Middletown and could be a catalyst for future revitalization,” said Denise Hamet, Middletown’s economic development director. “We haven’t done something like that yet.”

Hamet anticipates other projects applying for these grants in the next application cycle in March as well as others in the following cycle in September. Those projects applying in March could include the Manchester Inn and the Snider Ford/Sonshine buildings, she said.

“As these renovation projects reach fruition, they will broaden the revitalization of our city’s core by providing additional elements toward creating a successful downtown where residents can live, work and play,” Hamet said.

The Middletown Building and Deposit Association erected their seven-story Art Deco bank and office building about 1930 as a symbol of prominence and stability. The partnership will name the soon to be redeveloped property into the Goetz Tower, named for the original building architect, Harold W. Goetz, Sr. Following rehabilitation, the building will house 20 residential units.

Hamet said Fifth Third donated the property to Grassroots Ohio in the July 2012 for the purpose of historic redevelopment. The property’s value at the time of its donation was $190,000. The nonprofit development group is focused on the redevelopment of historic structures in southwest Ohio and applied for historic tax credits in September 2014.

The redevelopment of the property will result in the reuse of nearly 30,000 square feet of space that has been vacant for many years and will bring new market-rate housing and retail space to the City’s downtown core.

The tower is located across the street from the Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, which opened in the fall of 2012 and has seen its enrollment nearly double since it first opened. “This project will build on that success by offering services in support of students and staff at Cincinnati State,” Robinette said.

Stakeholders in downtown Middletown have been working for the past several years on redeveloping the City’s core and this project is expected to help accelerate that area’s renaissance.

The project supports the city’s strategic plan for downtown.

“This project is great example of a public/private collaboration,” Hamet said.

The project has received funding support from the community, including:

  • Duke Energy, the Charlotte-based energy provider for Ohio and Kentucky, gave the project a boost with a $23,700 grant to help Grassroots Ohio assess the redevelopment project for predevelopment tax credits.
  • The City of Middletown gave its support for a U.S. EPA grant of more than $13,000 for a Phase 1 Environmental Assessment.
  • The Middletown Community Foundation gave the group a grant to expand the South Main Historic District to include Goetz Tower. (This was a necessary step before the group could apply for historic tax credits.)
  • The Cincinnati Development Fund gave developers an $85,000 development loan.