Central School tax breaks eyed

By Jason Hawk - jhawk@civitasmedia.com



Central School renovations could start in early 2017 if Amherst city council works quickly to create a two-block historical district.

Attorney Robert Ellis, representing Sprenger Health Care, asked Monday for a district covering the area boxed in by Park Avenue, South Main Street, Franklin Avenue, and Church Street.

Historical properties within the zone — including the long-empty former school — would be eligible for tax abatement.

Sprenger has owned Central for three decades and plans to resurrect it have never materialized. It’s deteriorating and the time to act is now, Ellis said.

“The building has begun to be vandalized,” he told council. “There’s evidence kids are getting in there. We’re anxious to get this approved so we can begin working on that, so it will be less of a hazard for the city.”

Sprenger aims to use state tax credits to transform it into an assisted living facility with 21 bedroom units and 20 studio units.

The company is asking for a 12-year property tax exemption for all new investment in the building but would continue paying taxes at the same rate it does now.

President Kenneth Malanowski said ideally construction will start in the first quarter of the new year and will be completed later in 2017.

“As a one-time student of Central School, I’m happy to see something’s going to happen with that building. It’s my favorite school,” said councilman Steve Bukovac, one of several who voiced an interest in touring the old building.

The News-Times walked its halls this summer with COO Michael Sprenger. The bottom floor is dark and cave-like, floors warped and walls losing sheaths of paint; the upper levels are in better shape but glass from broken windows litters hallways and stairs.

The school needs to be gutted, it’s interior rebuilt.

To make that happen, millions of dollars in credits are being sought from the Ohio Development Services Agency — and without them, Sprenger said the vast remodel won’t happen.

An emergency vote is expected this coming Monday to fast-track creation of the new historical district.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.



By Jason Hawk