Ex-St. Hedwig school idea on hold after tax credit rejected

6/13/2013
BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
This is a conceptual drawing of a proposed senior housing complex in north Toledo that would involve renovating the existing St. Hedwig School and adding on to it to create 41 senior apartments.
This is a conceptual drawing of a proposed senior housing complex in north Toledo that would involve renovating the existing St. Hedwig School and adding on to it to create 41 senior apartments.

Plans to convert the former St. Hedwig School in North Toledo’s Polish Village into 41 apartments for low-income seniors this year fell apart Wednesday with the denial of needed state tax credits.

The community development corporation United North Inc. last year announced its plan to buy and renovate the school, which dates to 1901.

Terry Glazer, United North executive director, said the agency wanted to demolish the former convent and two garages as part of the estimated $8 million project. The historic St. Hedwig Church and rectory would have remained under the ownership of the Catholic Diocese of Toledo.

Those plans are on hold for at least a year, he said.

The Ohio Housing Finance Agency declined United North’s request for tax credits worth $875,000 a year over 10 years, Mr. Glazer said.

“One of the things that hurts us was if a property is being foreclosed on, it gets three points in the competitive process, but the Catholic Diocese has been paying the taxes and it is current,” he said. “But it has been vacant for years.”

Mr. Glazer said United North would apply again for the tax credits.

Glazer
Glazer

Cranes Landing, a $7 million United North complex on the former site of Chase Elementary School that offers one and two-bedroom apartments to seniors ages 55 and older, was initially rejected for tax credits.

“The Catholic Diocese was nice enough to extend option agreements for a number of years,” Mr. Glazer said. “The project is too important not to make happen.”

Under the plan, the school would be converted to 23 apartments on three floors with the top floor used as a community recreation room. A walkway would be built to connect the building to a new three-story structure that would contain 18 units for a total of 41 apartments. The parking lot also would be reconfigured to accommodate 63 parking spaces.

St. Hedwig and nearby St. Adalbert parishes were merged in 2010. St. Hedwig Church, which was built in 1891, now only is used for special services, such as weddings and funerals, said Sally Oberski, spokesman for the diocese.

The financing for the project included $60,000 from the city’s more than $7 million in Community Development Block Grant funding. That was cut out of the original block-grant recommendations made by the city’s Department of Neighborhoods committee. Council’s revisions reinstated it pending the tax credit-approval, but it was cut again with a veto from Mayor Mike Bell last month.

Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat said if United North had gotten the needed tax credits for the project, Mayor Bell was committed to asking council for approval to use some of Toledo HOME funding allocation.

Mr. Glazer said United North should be able to use that $60,000 for another project.

“The St. Hedwig project was not funded right now but we still have staff partly funded and projects we could have put in the place of St. Hedwig,” Mr. Glazer said. “We could substitute the Ohio Theatre or the renovation of houses in the Vistula Historic District.”

City Spokesman Jen Sorgenfrei said the city would have to evaluate what United North would want to do with that $60,000 in federal money.

Toledo Councilman Lindsay Webb acknowledged that the tax-credit process is competitive.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.