Former school buildings

These former school buildings on Fayette Street in Nelsonville have been purchased by a developer to convert into 33 apartments and commercial space.

NELSONVILLE — A project to redevelop the former Nelsonville High School and Junior High into apartments will move forward now that the Ohio Housing Finance Agency has approved tax credits and earmarked loan money for the project.

“We’ll be under construction within two years, at most,” said Joe McCabe, of the Woda Group of Westerville, which is doing the project.

Wednesday’s announcement by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency brought expressions of joy from members of the Nelsonville Restoration Foundation, which owns the buildings and has been working for more than 15 years to preserve them and put them to a new use.

“I think we’re all stunned,” said foundation Chairwoman Dorothy Gettle after hearing Wednesday’s announcement. “It’s wonderful, just wonderful.”

Woda submitted the application for tax credits and loan funding in February.

“We’ve been sitting on needles and pins,” Gettle said of the wait. “Everybody is happy today.”

“I’m so excited I’m in tears,” said Betty Jo Parsley, who is on the foundation’s board of trustees. “I’m totally, completely thrilled that this is happening to our town and our region.”

The Ohio Housing Finance Agency approved $591,246 in annual tax credits over 10 years and reserved $1.5 million under its Housing Development Loan Program.

“It makes it financially feasible to go forward,” McCabe said. Woda also will be seeking federal historical tax credits, but McCabe said he doesn’t anticipate a problem in getting approval because the process is noncompetitive and the buildings are already on the National Register of Historic Places.

Arlyne Alston, spokeswoman for the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, said awards under the loan program are made according to a “rolling schedule” and that Woda will need to come back later for final approval. However, being on the reserved list means in most cases that an award will be made.

The developer will now move on to more detailed designs of the project.

“We do a lot of design and engineering. That takes many months,” McCabe said.

“We’re looking forward to having a presence in Nelsonville,” he added.

McCabe said something that might have helped in getting approval from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency is that the project has a jobs component. Rocky Brands will be utilizing a portion of the finished project.

“I think we’re bringing something a little different,” McCabe said.

The buildings will be converted into 33 one- and two-bedroom apartments, according to information on the Ohio Housing Finance Agency website.

Rocky will utilize about 8,000 square feet in the former junior high building.

Mike Brooks, chairman of the board of Rocky Brands, said it will be utilized as general office space or as a call center.

Brooks said he is pleased that Rocky can help with the effort to save the buildings.

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srobb@athensmessenger.com; Twitter @SteveRmessenger


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