Dan Sarvis stands on an old wood floor in one of Akron’s newest urban apartment buildings — in a restored old tire factory near downtown.
“This is ancient ground,” Sarvis said of the restored floor. “This wood would have been grown in the 1700s and 1800s and put in here in 1904.”
That was when the old Swinehart Tire & Rubber Co. factory was built.
Sarvis is leasing manager for the 24-unit development — known as Cascade Lofts — that opened about a year ago and is now fully occupied and has a waiting list.
Cascade Lofts at 21 W. North St., just west of Howard Street, joined another Akron building restoration project last week in receiving preservation awards from the Cleveland Restoration Society and the American Institute of Architects Cleveland.
The other project: An old Akron soap factory that was transformed into the offices of the WhiteSpace marketing and advertising firm. This project, at 234 Furnace St., is roughly a mile away from Cascade Lofts; both are near downtown Akron’s Northside District.
Both projects would not have been possible if not for federal and state tax credits designed to spur the rehabilitation of historic properties, according to people involved with the projects.
“The credits work so well for rejuvenating downtowns and small towns, too,” said Elizabeth Corbin Murphy, a historic preservation architect and a principal with Chambers Murphy & Burge, which worked on both projects.
“They generate employment and bring people downtown and provide affordable places for people to live,” she said.
Developers help finance their projects by selling the federal and state tax credits to investors, who use them to trim their tax bills.
Murphy and others involved in historic preservation across the country have been highlighting the tax amid uncertainty over what tax reform could mean for the federal credits.
Saved by tax credits
Locally, developer Tony Troppe said “Cascade Lofts is a classic example of a building that was going to put in landfill” if not for the credits.
Now, the apartment building — about a mile from the soap-factory restoration project — has attracted tenants who want urban living and also enjoy the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath, which is steps away.
Troppe, who has spearheaded a string of historic preservation projects in Akron, bought the building in 2011. It had previously sat vacant for several years. He got about $1.5 million in state and federal tax credits — a big chunk of the $3.5 million project cost.
The credits, Troppe said, “provide the capital that fills in the gaps” and “provide the impetus for a [conventional] lender to say, ‘OK, we can get involved in that.’?”
The 45,000-square-foot building with a clay tile exterior includes space on the lower level that Troppe is turning into the Lock 15 Brewing Co. — named after the nearby historic Lock 15 on the Ohio & Erie Canal — and event space he has dubbed Trailhead, as in the nearby trailhead for the Towpath Trail.
Troppe hopes to have the brewery open by the end of the year; he expects to have the event space open in September.
The apartments occupy two floors of the building and range from 750 to 1,650 square feet. They rent for about $800 to $1,750 a month. Steel beams and columns — original to the factory — have been left exposed. The building offers green-living features such as energy-saving LED lighting.
Former soap company
Keevan White, owner of WhiteSpace, said he was looking for an old space to house the marketing and advertising firm when he discovered the old brick Akron soap factory.
“I fell more in love when I learned its the third-oldest factory that’s still standing in Akron.”
Dating to 1893, it was built by Adam Duncan for his Akron Soap Co., adjacent to the Valley Railway. In 1908, it was purchased for use by the Pioneer Cereal Co. Later, it was home to the Pockrandt Paint Co. until the mid-1950s.
White financed the $2-plus million project with nearly $1 million in federal and state tax credits. White said he also used Chambers Murphy & Burge as historic architect on his project, which includes a 1935 warehouse building. The architecture firm, with an office in Akron, recently joined Perspectus Architecture in Shaker Heights.
White’s WhiteSpace Creative used to be in historic Dickson Transfer Building that backs up to Maiden Lane in downtown Akron. It is one of several historic properties reconstructed by Everett Group, which is led by Troppe.
“He has pretty much been a mentor to me” when it comes to historic preservation, White said.
The Cleveland Restoration Society and the American Institute of Architects Cleveland last week honored a total of 15 projects. Another Akron project received an award: the rebuilding of the stone wall enclosing Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, the historic estate in West Akron.
Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or firstname.lastname@example.org.