The Oakland District, located near downtown Middletown, is one step closer to being declared a National Historic District, said consultant Christine Leggio from Johnson, Mirmiran and Thompson.
She made a virtual presentation during a special City Council meeting last week that was attended by all six members of the Middletown Historic Commission.
The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) approved the Oakland District’s application and now it will be reviewed by the SHPO board, then forwarded to the National Register of Historic Places, according to Leggio.
She expects the city to learn whether the district, which includes 556 buildings and one apartment, was approved within the next two months.
Jeremy Loukinas, a member of the Middletown Historic Commission, said the commission has been working with the city since 2018 trying to get the Oakland Neighborhood on the national register and thus eligible for large state and national tax credits.
Those efforts have stalled due to the change in city leadership, including two city managers, according to Loukinas.
He praised City Manager Paul Lolli, Assistant City Manager Nathan Cahill, city staff and City Council members for helping the historic commission get the Oakland project back on schedule.
“This is a signal to groups and commissions that council will work with them,” Loukinas told the Journal-News after the meeting. “Everybody is on the same page.”
Later, he added: “We got some momentum. This show that Middletown is open for business.”
If approved, the owner of the former Carnegie Library will be eligible for tax credits needed to renovate the 105-year-old building that has been vacant for 20 years, Loukinas said.
In 2018, Dan Mayzum, owner of Architecture Renewal, bought the Carnegie building and land at 1320 First Ave. for $5,000, or $90,000 less than it was appraised in 2017 by the Butler County Auditor’s Office.
Last year, Mayzum said he was enthusiastic about the future of the 17,000-square-foot building that may be converted into a brewery, restaurant, bar, meeting and banquet rooms.
“The library has been a destination,” Mayzum said at the time. “It was and it will be again.”
Loukinas believes the Oakland Neighborhood can see the same success seen at Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati and the South Park Neighborhood in Dayton.
He said the historic homes in South Park once were worth $10,000 to $30,000, but after it was declared historic and potential new home owners were guaranteed a return on their investment, the price of the homes, in some cases, jumped up 10 times.
“Young people like to buy crappy old houses, fix them up, but they have to have a little bit of protection,” he said. “The same can happen here.”
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