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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Onesto project gets tax credit


The Onesto apartment project will receive a state tax credit, but the developer is still waiting for environmental officials to sign off on the asbestos removal at the 12-story building.

The Ohio Department of Development announced late last week that the downtown project is among 11 in the state approved for the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit program.

Developer Steve Coon plans to convert the former Hotel Onesto building into upscale apartments. Housing is an integral part of revitalizing the downtown, Coon and city officials have said. Part of a two-year trial program, the tax credit is for 25 percent of qualifying rehabilitation expenses — $5.8 million of the estimated $6 million Onesto project, for an estimated tax credit of $1.45 million, according to the Department of Development.

The tax credit can be claimed against the building owner’s Ohio corporate franchise tax, personal income tax or dealer-in-intangible tax liability.

The Onesto project was selected out of 103 applicants for the tax-credit program. The 11 projects will invest more than a combined $147 million to rehabilitate historic buildings. Coon said he’s waiting for a “no further action” letter from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency before proceeding with renovations. epa review The letter will culminate an EPA review of the asbestos removal at the Onesto building at Second Street and Cleveland Avenue NW, which opened as a hotel in 1930 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Asbestos was removed in 2006. A dispute ensued between the city and the contractor when the company submitted bills exceeding the original contract by nearly $1 million. The city hired the contractor because officials were administering a $900,000 state grant for the asbestos cleanup.

Coon and his partner in the private Onesto project, Dana Noel, also were not satisfied with the asbestos work. Earlier this year, the city settled the dispute with Ohio Technical Services of Columbus, agreeing to pay about $250,000 of the $900,000 cost overrun, bringing the asbestos-related price tag within the grant total. Margy Poorman, director of the city’s community and economic development department, said the city has been working diligently “for many, many months” and providing the necessary information to the EPA for the subsequent review. “Truly it’s in the EPA’s hands and we’re just waiting for the official last letter,” Poorman said, calling the Onesto plans “very exciting for the city.”

Mike Settles, Ohio EPA spokesman, said the EPA has not been holding up the project. Rather, the agency has been working through a detailed process, which upon completion, also grants the Onesto property owner a covenant not to sue, which “serves as a stamp of approval for work completed (asbestos removal) and releases (the owner) from liability for past releases of substances,” Settles said.

The “no further action” letter is expected to be finished in a “matter of weeks,” he said. The final part of the review pertains to the legal description of the property, Settles said. “It’s gone fairly well and we don’t envision any obstacles to getting this process completed,” he said.


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