November 26, 2014

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Oberlin development nearly full

OBERLIN — Despite the lagging economy, the $14 million East College Street project in Oberlin is almost fully occupied.

From left, in front of the East College Street project, are Josh Rosen, Naomi Sabel and Ben Ezinga, who dreamed up the project when they were Oberlin College students. (CT photo by Chuck Humel.)

From left, in front of the East College Street project, are Josh Rosen, Naomi Sabel and Ben Ezinga, who dreamed up the project when they were Oberlin College students. (CT photo by Chuck Humel.)

You can grab a healthy nosh at Cafe Sprouts, purchase hard-to-find Korean cooking ingredients at Kim’s Market or buy a comic at Infinite Monkey and Games.

“We are 100 percent leased with no available retail and office space,” said Josh Rosen, who developed the building with fellow Oberlin College graduates Ben Ezinga and Naomi Sabel of Sustainable Community Associates.

Just three of the 34 condominiums remain for sale, while 10 of the housing units were rented to people earning less than $34,000 a year.

The goal was to develop a truly mixed-use building where people of varying incomes could live side by side — the opposite of a “gated” community, he said.

The remaining three condos for sale, which are two-bedroom units, cost $235,000 and up.

Given the state of the economy, SCA is “thrilled” to have all of its 20,000 square feet of retail and office space filled, according to Ezinga.

Community members who would like to tour the facility before it is full are welcome, according to Sabel, who called it “a community-supported project.”

From its inception when all three were still college students, the project took a decade to become reality.

Funding for the project, on East College Street near the Apollo Theatre, included $4.3 million of equity from federal New Market Tax Credits, $2.4 million in philanthropic equity and a $200,000 Housing and Urban Development Grant in addition to typical bank financing.

The city of Oberlin also agreed to issue $1.4 million in bonds to help the developers pay for infrastructure improvements through a TIF — tax increment financing.

For up to 19 years, property taxes from the new development will pay back the cost of sewers and other utilities needed for the building, as well as debt service, said Oberlin Finance Director Sal Talarico.

Under its agreement with the developers, Oberlin Schools will still receive about $30,000 a year or half of what the schools would have received without the TIF, Talarico said.

This year, the city received about $129,000 in diverted tax funds, which was enough to make the scheduled $78,000 debt service payment on the TIF and send the Oberlin Schools its $30,000 check last week, Talarico said.

If taxes continue to flow in as anticipated, he said any excess would be used to pay down the TIF.

“It certainly looks like we could pay it off early,” Talarico said.

Meanwhile, Rosen said the trio is eying “other great ventures.”

“We’re looking at a number of environmental initiatives that are not real-estate related,” Rosen said.

While declining to elaborate, Rosen said they are “looking for other opportunities to pursue our mission of sustainable-minded economic development that can have a transformative effect.”

Retail and office tenants

  • Cowhaus Creamery (ice cream)
  • Slow Train Cafe
  • Ohio Educational Credit Union
  • Magpie Pizza
  • Infinite Monkey and Games
  • Tansu
  • Kim’s Market
  • Cafe Sprouts
  • Isabella and Co. CPAs
  • The Oberlin Project
  • Credo Music

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.