By Tim Cox
The former Mersman Furniture Co. complex will remain as it is for the foreseeable future after Celina City Council members refused to give support to a proposed redevelopment effort.
City council members voted 4-3 against resolutions of support for a plan to redevelop the site with a mix of senior citizen apartments and low- to- moderate-income houses. Even though the resolutions included no direct financial support for the plan, council members offered various reasons for opposing the project.
Those opposed to the project cited the lack of need for this type of housing in the city, questions about future city financial commitment to the project and whether the city should be involved in the private venture project.
Brickyard Investments Ltd., which owns much of the Mersman site, planned to partner with Buckeye Community Hope Foundation and other investors to build 30 apartment units and 30 single family homes. Resolutions of support from city council would have allowed the agency to apply to the Ohio Housing Finance Agency for federal tax credits.
The $7 million project was dependent on getting the tax credits, and the applications likely will not be filed without city support, said Brickyard President Randy Bruns, who also owns Rockford Construction Services. The project also hinged on the successful demolition and environmental cleanup of the former furniture factory site, estimated at $1.7 million. Bruns had told city officials that if grant assistance cannot be secured for the demolition of the site, he would ask the city to contribute tax increment finance (TIF) revenue toward the project. Up to $500,000 might be needed without grant funding, he said.
The Mersman complex is in a TIF that diverts real estate taxes on new development into a separate fund to pay for infrastructure and other public improvements.
Tax revenue on the site would go from $6,000-$8,000 annually today to $70,000-$100,000 with the new residential development.
Councilwoman Angie King questioned whether the city helping clear the Mersman site would be beneficial to the community.
Neighborhood resident Kenny Slorp said he would like to see the site cleared and used for a jail or hospital. If neither of those is viable, Slorp said he would like to see the three-block tract turned into a park.
King voted against the resolutions of support for the project along with June Scott, Myron Buxton and Ed Jeffries. Council members Collin Bryan, Rick Bachelor and Chris Mohler supported the plan.
Council's vote is the latest setback for efforts to redevelop the complex, portions of which are crumbling. Brickyard Investments employee Jerry Butler called the structure a "dying facility" at a recent meeting on the issue.
Late last year, Brickyard and the city were rejected for a $1.7 million Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund grant that would have helped demolish and clean up the site.
Bruns left the meeting immediately after council's vote and would not answer questions. A telephone message left at his office this morning was not returned by The Daily Standard's press time.
"I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it," Bruns said as he left Celina City Hall.