ASHLAND -- A developer is to build 200 market rate apartments at the former Hess and Clark property after the existing structure is demolished.
City of Ashland Mayor Matt Miller shared the update Tuesday evening at a council meeting, where two residents asked if the building could instead be preserved.
In late 2020, Ashland City Council approved selling the 10 East 7th Street Property to Abacus Industrial Development for $100 in exchange for the removal of the decaying structure. The developer would demolish the structure within nine months and later replace it with an 85,000 square-foot data center, Mayor Matt Miller said at that time.
According to Miller, the developer's vision shifted following an in-person tour of the city. The mayor previewed the potential change in his January state of the city address, saying the developer was considering apartments rather than a data center.
On Tuesday, Miller confirmed the change. The proposed apartment building will feature four stories with spaces intended for its residents to "live, work and play," Miller said.
The first-floor may feature a restaurant, and another area may offer shared workspace for residents. A pool is to be built on the roof.
The apartments will overlook the former Pump House property, a now grassy field that is to be turned into an urban meadow. The city is yet to release further details about the green space.
Elements of the former Hess and Clark building, such as the silos, are to be included in the design, but the existing building is to be demolished. The process began earlier this year with asbestos abatement.
The developer has expressed an interest in building further apartments if the first ones are received well, the mayor continued.
"I've shared your thoughts and others about the desire to save it. He's done this all over, and he said it's just not the place. He's familiar with all the tax credits, but he's convinced he won't disappoint us with the outcome," Miller said to the individuals who spoke at the meeting.
Ashland resident, Kyle von Kamp suggested the property be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. He explained that a developer who would rehabilitate the property could access stackable tax credits -- a 20 percent federal tax credit and a 25 percent state tax credit.
He also pointed out that the City of Ashland received an Ohio EPA Environmental Site Assessment in 2011. Ohio EPA grants could help abate the property, and other money could be available as well to convert the buildings into housing and businesses.
"The Save the Hess and Clark Building group is not opposed to apartments, but quite the contrary and would encourage apartments utilizing the historic factory," the Save The Hess and Clark Building Community Group said in a Tuesday press release.
Since March 5, 2021, 256 individuals have joined a Facebook group called "Save the Hess and Clark Building."
"With multiple historic structures being razed in downtown Ashland, many people question the decision to destroy the Hess and Clark rather than repurpose the building," the release said. "Barb Powers of the Ohio Historic Preservation Office visited Ashland prior to downtown going on the National Register of Historic Places. Powers exclaimed that the Hess and Clark factory should be nominated for the National Register.
"Members of this group are looking to work with the City of Ashland and Abacus to eliminate blight in the most inspiring way by preserving our heritage and further strengthen the vitality of Ashland."
An agreement is already signed with a developer, the mayor said. The city is to transfer ownership of the property to the developer once the demolition and cleanup are complete. The company is expected to leave only the concrete slab.
But before entering this agreement, the mayor couldn't find developers who were interested in renovating the building after a tour.
"Over the past probably three and a half years I've taken developers -- countless developers -- through that building. Some have had a heart to save it; some are local with very deep pockets and talked about saving just a portion of the building," Miller said. "But at the end of every investigation... even those that wanted to save it and had the means to save it could not financially justify renovating it."
He noted that the city was granted permission to demolish the structure while it remained under other ownership. The Ashland County Land Bank and Mayor Miller had been eyeing the Hess and Clark factory since at least August 2018. The city took ownership of the property from an out-of-town owner in late 2019.
"Just make sure, in the future, you're talking to the right people, because in 2011, (the city) did a study (with the EPA)," Kamp said. "We could still have the Hess and Clark building here... I'm still convinced that it could be done with stacked tax credits."
Near the end of the meeting, Mayor Miller reminded people that entering the building is trespassing. A fence is to be installed to keep people from going inside.
"You are taking your life into your own hands... it's deteriorated in some areas to where you can see the floor below," Mayor Miller said.
Following the meeting, Kamp addressed the "Save the Hess and Clark Building" Facebook group with a post.
"Thank you for all the love and support today! While it didn’t go as I had hoped, I don’t think this is over! There are still a few things that I want to try and do. I will post a few other things as I make some last attempts," he said.