Work crews will soon begin transforming the long vacant Douglas Hotel in downtown Urbana and the former Urbana North and South elementary schools into 51 affordable apartments for senior citizens.
With release this week of about $13 million in previously approved financing, the long-anticipated Legacy Place project got the green light to begin renovation of the historic buildings, said Duane Miller, F&C Legacy Place president. Transfer of the funds to Legacy Place was delayed by pandemic-related office closures.
The apartments will be ready to lease next year, Miller said, adding the apartments in the school buildings will be ready by mid-summer and the apartments in the Douglas by year’s end.
“Legacy Place is a big win for our community, and it’s the result of persistent effort by many individuals and organizations in a united public-private partnership,” Marcia Bailey, director of the Champaign Economic Partnership, said. “Legacy Place is proof of what our community can accomplish when we work together.”
Besides the CEP and project developer Flaherty & Collins, key players in the partnership are the city of Urbana, Urbana City Schools administration and board of education, John Doss, owner of the Douglas Hotel since 2007, and Resident Supports and Services Inc. (RSSI). RSSI, a local nonprofit provider of housing for seniors and adults with developmental disabilities, is serving as co-developer and 25 percent owner of the project.
“Revitalizing and repurposing these historic buildings will have a tremendous impact on our economy and the attractiveness of our community and downtown,” Bailey said. The anchor of the southwest corner of Monument Square since 1870, the Douglas has stood vacant since 2004. “I’m looking forward to further business development in Urbana, especially in the downtown, to accommodate the new Legacy Place residents.”
Another positive outcome of the project, she added, is that it will make much needed single-family housing available for new residents as seniors downsize to move into the apartments.
Miller said the project accomplishes two goals: “turning three vacant buildings back around to make them useful assets to the community and meeting Urbana’s needs for affordable senior housing.”
He added that the project, as it qualified for historic tax credits, will respect the historic nature of the buildings. Ed McCall of McCall Sharp Architecture of Springfield is the architect for the project.
The $13 million in financing for the project includes federal and state Historic Tax Credits, low income housing tax credits, an Ohio Housing Finance Agency loan, and a construction loan.
As the city of Urbana’s community development manager, Doug Crabill has been assisting Flaherty & Collins on the project for three years. He said, “Projects like this sometimes have a long horizon before the public can see the fruits of what we’ve been working for. The great thing is that everybody – the city, schools, the CEP, the developer – have been pulling in the same direction to get us where we are today.”
He added, “John Doss has helped keep the project moving forward and he’s kept the Douglas in a stable state” to make it a viable candidate for the project.
Doss had work completed to stabilize the structure and removed two small additions, which did not contribute to the historic value of the property.
“I was really happy about the city and the school board all pulling together to get this done,” Doss said. “The schools really stepped up for the community.”
Charles Thiel, superintendent of Urbana City Schools, said, “It’s been a long, long journey to get to this point. But we had faith and hope that we would get here.”
Scott DeLong, president/CEO of RSSI, said, “Our board members are excited about the project and happy we could participate and help make the project a success.” RSSI manages housing for people with developmental disabilities in Champaign, Preble, Shelby and Union counties. Six of the 51 Legacy Place apartments will be designated for people with disabilities.
Submitted by Champaign Economic Partnership.