Friday, December 13, 2002

Grant deal aids Mercantile repairs



By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - The drive to preserve and redevelop the historic Mercantile buildings downtown has received a financial boost from the Hamilton Community Foundation.

The foundation will provide a $385,000 grant for roof replacement, and structural and fa┴ade repairs in exchange for the city's creating a downtown development fund. Hamilton City Council approved the grant agreement this week.

"This will be the first step of progress to revitalize our downtown," Mayor Donald Ryan said. "We want to preserve our heritage and move into the 21st century."

The three city-owned buildings, which sit side by side on High Street, were built between 1875 and 1885. They have stood vacant for two years.

Hamilton officials hope to turn the buildings over to developers for commercial-retail use.

In return for the $385,000 from the foundation, the city agrees to enter into a tax increment financing (TIF) agreement with future developers. Tax increment financing is a development tool that uses property tax revenue to help pay for a project.

Proceeds from the TIF would be placed into a fund to promote future downtown development. A committee of representatives from the city and the foundation would recommend projects for grants from this fund.

"We're trying to encourage long-term reinvestment in our downtown," said Mary Pat Essman, the foundation's chairwoman. "By setting up this kind of fund, we want to make sure that money keeps going into downtown development."

The foundation will not release the $385,000 until the TIF fund is established, Ms. Essman said. Because of this provision, City Manager Mike Samoviski said the city should not authorize repairs until reaching a tentative agreement with a developer to own and renovate the buildings.

An architectural consultant concluded in a report this year that the Mercantile buildings are in good enough condition to be salvaged. The city wants to make repairs to the buildings soon to prevent water from seeping in and to prevent pieces of the stone facade from falling.

Tentative plans call for retail shops to occupy the buildings' first floors and for commercial businesses to use the second and third floors.

"It has the potential to create jobs and to bring people downtown," Mr. Ryan said.

E-mail skemme@enquirer.com




TOP STORIES
Owners circle the wagons to protect their equine friends
Reading scores up slightly
Lawmakers stay course on school fund setup
Finan: Taft may have to cut increases for schools

IN THE TRISTATE
City housing development fund supported
Obituary: Clifford Whigham, gym owner
City's planning director resigning amid breakup
Police narrowly OK 2-year contract
On sale: Chance to blow up stadium
Blue Ash planning documents available for public inspection
English Woods demolition on
Health officials prepare for smallpox vaccinations
Tristate A.M. Report

ENQUIRER COLUMNISTS
BRONSON: Schools case
SMITH-AMOS: From the heart
HOWARD: Some Good News
WELLS: Trent Lott

BUTLER, WARREN, CLERMONT
Cox Road finally loses hated array of barrels
We want to talk to you, Fairfield
Grant deal aids Mercantile repairs

OHIO
Slain priest returns in coffin to church he served
Dayton urged to keep sirens
Passing car badly hurts trooper at crash site

KENTUCKY
NKU, others brace for cutback
Fuel-oil tanker collapses bridge
Henrys expecting 2nd child
Animal case cost Kenton $30K
N.Ky. to hire coordinator in case of biological attack
Community protests adult book stores
Conner's nursing home just about out of money; could close soon
No drugs found in home of man killed in cuffs
Former Lexington bishop moving to new Ky. location