Akron took another step Monday to try to help spur development at historic landmarks in the city, this time at the former Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. buildings and Greystone Hall downtown.
City council approved historic designations for the buildings, which is a step required for developers to receive state historic tax credits. The council also voted to lease Greystone to developers who hope to restore Greystone and construct a hotel adjacent to it.
The council designated the former Firestone properties at 1200 Firestone Parkway and 1301 S. Main St. as a historic district, and named Greystone Hall at 103 S. High St. a historic landmark.
The city has applied for state historic tax credits for the properties. The deadline for the fall applications is Monday, with the recipients expected to be announced by the end of the year.
“It’s exciting to see this move forward,” Councilman Jeff Fusco, who chairs the planning committee, said of the two projects.
Jim Loveman, vice president of Amerimar Realty Co. in Philadelphia, which is involved with the Firestone and Greystone projects, said the tax credits are a “critical part of the financing” for both endeavors.
Akron is leasing Greystone to Greystone Partners, a group of local business owners that is working with Amerimar on the project, for 40 years. To be eligible for state tax credits, the developer must either own the property or have a long-term lease, said Brad Beckert, Akron’s development engineering manager.
The lease agreement gives Greystone Partners until next September to sign a redevelopment agreement with the city for the property. Part of the agreement would involve Greystone Partners buying the property. The city isn’t charging Greystone Partners for the one-year lease, Beckert said.
The one-year period will provide two shots at the state tax credits — this fall and next spring, Beckert said.
The Akron/Summit County Convention & Visitors Bureau will continue to operate Greystone during the next year, just as it is currently.
The historic tax credits are designed to spur the rehabilitation of historic properties. Developers help to finance their projects by selling the tax credits to investors, who use them to trim their tax bills.
Amerimar and Greystone Partners are in the process of seeking funding for the $40 million project, which involves refurbishing Greystone, which dates to 1917, and building a new, seven-story, 160-room independent hotel adjacent to it. The hotel would be constructed on the site of the former High Street Christian Church, whose congregation has moved to Green. The church would be torn down.
Loveman said this is a “challenging environment” for getting financing for hotels in medium-sized cities like Akron. He said the affiliation with Greystone would make the upscale hotel stand out from the competition.
Lauren Burge, an Akron architect helping with the historic designations for the projects, said such boutique-style hotels are a growing trend.
“It’s really providing something unique,” she said.
Amerimar also wants to redevelop the former Firestone buildings into a multiple-tenant complex of offices, lab space and other uses.
The company may have found its first tenant: Summit County. The triangular-shaped Firestone building, built between 1916 and 1930, is among the properties the county is considering for the new home for its Job and Family Services office, which the county plans to move from its current downtown location, Loveman said.
County officials say Firestone along with the former Goodyear headquarters and a building on Diagonal Road across from Henry’s Acme are being considered.
Beckert said Amerimar has had several parties look at the former Firestone clubhouse property, built before 1916. He said there also has been some interest in the former headquarters building, constructed in 1910, but so far “nothing really concrete.”
Amerimar has an option to buy the former Firestone buildings from Akron for $5 million — the same amount the city paid for the buildings. The city is giving the developer time to attract tenants. Akron bought the buildings as part of a deal to woo Firestone’s owner, Japan-based Bridgestone Corp., into building a new tech center in Akron. The $100 million facility opened in April.