Giving thanks to the Community Improvement Corporation

Giving thanks to the Community Improvement Corporation

To the editor:

May is Historic Preservation Month. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Community Improvement Corporation for agreeing to accept the Thompson Block from the county Land Bank. I also need to commend them for understanding that preservation and restoration of those buildings is important.

Last fall, I presented a letter to the CIC. Below are points from that letter:

One of our community’s strengths, something that makes East Liverpool unique, is the amount of historic architecture that we have in our downtown business district. When people visit the city, they often remark about how charming all the old buildings are. Many other cities don’t have the historic stock that we have. Historic preservation is a passion of mine. I live in a home, in the downtown, that is nearly 140 years old. I enjoy walking through town and seeing the details on the commercial and residential buildings. We as a community need to recognize that historic preservation is important. We need to support it not because it creates a real sense of place, but because it has a positive economic impact. I bring this issue up today because of the recent news about The Thompson Building on the Diamond.

Per the National Park Service the “J.C. Thompson Block is one of the district’s most important examples of commercial design from the last quarter of the nineteenth century.” While it is true that the building has fallen into disrepair over the years — something that should never have been allowed and something that I would like to prevent in the future — it is still an important and useful building. Many people will say that it is too far gone to be saved. Anyone who thinks that old buildings cannot be restored and renovated need only look to the New Castle School of Trades a block away to see what can be done. Reuse of historical structures is not just a concept, it is a practice that is already working in East Liverpool.

Historic preservation isn’t just done for the esthetics alone. It has a positive impact on the economy:

— Historic Preservation increases property values (84 percent to 111 percent vs. 49 percent outside historic districts) and enhances the regional economy.

— It conserves resources: it’s “greener” than new construction.

— Rehabilitation projects create 50 percent more jobs than new construction.

— It reduces infrastructure costs, saving 50 to 80 percent over new development.

— Heritage Tourism (visiting historical places) is increasing in popularity and those visitors stay longer and spend more per day.

— 62 percent of Millennials want to live in a mixed-use, walkable community.

— 40 percent of Millennials want to live in an urban setting.

— The impact from Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program (this project would be a great candidate for this program):

— Every $1 of OHPTC investment generates $40.58 in construction and operating impact.

— Every $1,000,000 in tax credits results in $8,000,000 in construction spending; creates 80 related jobs; generates $32,000,000 in operating impact; and nearly 300 permanent jobs are created.

I am pleased that the Community Improvement Corporation has decided to take control of the Thompson Building and determine its future. I urge you to seek a preservation project before any other. I will do everything that I can to help. I believe that this building, and the Diamond in general, is a real asset to the community and its reuse will help spur more development in our city. This could be the starting point for the next phase.

The adaptation and reuse of historic properties is not a new concept in East Liverpool. In addition to the New Castle School of Trades project, the city has seen many old buildings renovated and given a new life including the Museum of Ceramics (former post office); Masonic Temple (private residence); YMCA (ELHS’s Memorial Auditorium); Kent State University’s Purinton Hall and Mary Patterson buildings (East Liverpool High School and young women’s residence); not to mention many store fronts and homes that have seen new lives over the years. This is part of our city’s heritage — it’s in our DNA — and will continue to the future.

There are many who believe that newer is better, I don’t believe that is true. A new building cannot replace the building that is currently standing on that corner. Why does it seem that it’s easier to level a McDonald’s and build a new one than to remodel the one that was there? Modern structures are not built to last and don’t have the character to which human beings respond. If East Liverpool is to move forward and build a new economy, we need to respect our past. East Liverpool cannot become a community of parking lots and cinder block buildings. We need to invest in the things that make us different from other places, the things that make our city special. Do we want to live and work in a community that has charm and character, or an overgrown strip mall? I know which I prefer.

Thanks again to the CIC, to Robert Ritchey of the Columbiana County Land Bank, to Mayor Ryan Stovall and his administration and to my fellow council members for supporting this idea. Thanks, too to Scott Barrett and Brian Kerr, who serve on the Licensing & Economic Development Committee with me. They have listened and supported this concept all along. And, thank you to the people of East Liverpool who understand the idea that celebrating our city’s past can help us move into a better future.

John T. Mercer, CFRE.

Council at Large,

East Liverpool