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Lorain developer hopes to have funding estimate by month's end

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    The former Spitzer Hotel, also known as the Broadway Building, shown in May 2015.

    CHRONICLE FILE

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LORAIN — Developers hope to have concrete funding numbers for the Broadway Building deal by the end of the month, they told members of City Council at a Building and Lands Committee meeting Monday night.

ReTown president and developer Jim Louthen said the goal is to determine how much of a gap there is between what they have in place and the project’s overall $12 million price tag.

From there, Louthen said, he and architect Gary Fischer will determine how much the project needs from the city to move forward. The duo had previously asked for about $1 million in federal funds through the city, but after receiving pushback from city officials and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, they’re reconsidering.

“We’re down to the wire, and time is of the essence,” Louthen said. “We’re working very hard right now and our goal is to use the month of October to tighten up the budget and the month of November to make sure all of the financing in place.”

In August, Louthen entered a deal with the Lorain Port Authority and the building’s owner, Spitzer Great Lakes Ltd., in which Spitzer would donate the building to the port, which would in turn lease the building to Louthen to complete a 58-unit apartment building for those 55 and older.

The deal came about eight months after Spitzer received several citations from the city’s Building Department regarding the exterior of the structure, the fines for which have since been paid.

The building at the corner of East Erie Avenue and Broadway had fallen into disrepair after its role as the Spitzer Plaza Hotel ended in 2005 due to low occupancy rates.

In addition to being on the National Register of Historic Places, the building project was eligible for $440,203 in historic tax credits from the state.

Mayor Chase Ritenauer said he spoke with HUD Secretary Julian Castro over the weekend about possibly waiving the rules and allowing Lorain to use federal money to finance the project, but he’s not willing to rely on that.

“This is a difficult project,” he said. “There have been times where we thought it would never be developed. Does that mean we’re going to give up and be opposed to it? My bottom line is if this can be funded without federal funds, it’s in a tax abatement area, and if the financing is established, I would recommend a full abatement for the project.”

Committee Chairman and 1st Ward Councilman Brian Gates said while some might not be happy with the deal in its current form, it’s the one they must work with, especially with the impending expiration of the historic tax credits at the end of the year.

“I know for at least a decade, we’ve been trying to get something done with this building,” he said. “That’s the most important thing to me — getting rid of the albatross. If there is a reasonable and legal way for us as a city to help with this project, I’m all for that.”

Resident Lorraine Ritchey said she wanted to see the funding come through as long as it was legal because of the expiring tax credits.

“I’ve gotten old watching that building implode,” she said. “Something has to be done pretty quick. I don’t care how you do it, but do it. I don’t care how you get the cash in hand, but it needs done. I hope you can do something, I really do. I’m ashamed of it when people come down Broadway.”

While no formal action was taken, Councilwoman Mary Springowski, D-at large, said she wanted to see a draft resolution in support of the development when the deal comes back to full Council.

Contact Katie Nix at 329-7129 or knix@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @KatieNix330.



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