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Money to fix Feick Building, but not for Keller Building

Jason Singer • Jun 26, 2010 at 3:08 PM

SANDUSKY

When there's a winner, there's usually a loser.

Downtown Sandusky experienced both sides of the coin on Friday.

The Ohio Historic Preservation Office announced 13 projects that will receive 2010 state historic tax credits.

The Keller Building, which sought about $2.5 million, received nothing. The Feick Building, which sought slightly less than $1 million, got what it asked for.

The announcement struck another blow to the Keller Building, which numerous developers have failed to redevelop in recent years.

Gene Hawk, the head of the Chesapeake Lofts' Condo Owners Association, hoped to turn the Keller into market-rate apartments, possibly combined with a restaurant and commercial tenants on the ground floor.

His plan, however, relied on these tax credits.

He didn't return a phone message Friday to discuss where his efforts go from here.

Jonathan Sandvick, a Cleveland-based architect involved with the Keller project, expressed disappointment with the announcement.

Without the historic tax credits, Hawk will struggle to find funding, because banks have cut back on financing speculative projects, Sandvick said.

He hopes the state will give more historic tax credits in 2011, but Congress likely won't decide that until November.

"A state economic development report said the return is $5.77 for every $1 invested by state historic tax credits," Sandvick said. "So it's very successful from the point of view of their own analysis."

He believes the Keller Building has a solid shot of receiving financing if Congress re-ups the historic tax credit program.

"It's a worthy project if the funding is available," he said.

Lance Warner, a principal member of a company that owns the Feick Building on West Market Street, didn't know Friday afternoon the specific amount his project received.

Because of scheduling conflicts, he couldn't attend the announcement. But state historic tax credits equal about 25 percent of a project's total budget, Warner said.

Sandvick, who attended Friday's announcement, thought the Feick Building received slightly less than $1 million.

The money will go toward making the 61,000-square-foot Feick Building more energy- efficient, Warner said. That includes updating the windows and installing geothermal wells.

The multimillion-dollar project will cost significantly more than the state historic tax credits provide, however, and Warner said the project won't begin unless his company has all the financing in place.

"I use the analogy of an airplane," he said. "You wouldn't take off unless you had enough gasoline to reach your destination, would you?"

If the company reaches its funding goal and finishes the project, he hopes the Feick Building will become only the second LEED gold-certified commercial building in Ohio. The United States Green Building Council uses LEED certification to designate environmentally sustainable buildings.

The Feick Building currently houses 20-something tenants, including three divisions of Homeland Security, Warner said.

By making it more sustainable and modernizing it, Sandvick said, it will make the Feick much more attractive to prospective tenants.

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