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Restoration of Lazarus House a Win for Preservationists

Brent Warren Brent Warren Restoration of Lazarus House a Win for Preservationists
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Although small in scale compared to the many large apartment projects currently planned or under construction Downtown, the recent renovation of the Lazarus House at 380 East Town Street may provide some lessons for developers faced with the significant cost of restoring historic properties.

The husband and wife team of Jeff Darbee and Nancy Recchie, who live on Town Street and work as historic preservation consultants, used state and federal historic tax credits to help offset the cost of rehabbing the building and converting it into three apartments.

They undertook the project after becoming concerned that the house might be torn down and replaced with a parking lot – the fate of a Civil War-era mansion that once stood next door at the corner of Town and Grant. After applying for and receiving a 25% Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit in December of 2012 (which they then combined with a Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit), the renovation itself took about a year to complete.

The building, which dates to 1890, was the home of Fred Lazarus – president of the F&R Lazarus company and son of Simon Lazarus, the man who started the men’s clothing store downtown that would grow into the Lazarus chain of department stores.

Discoveries of the rehabilitation include hidden architectural details like inlaid floors that had been covered with linoleum and carpeting. Some original features could not be salvaged – pocket doors were taken out long ago, and some of the floors had been covered with glued-down tiles that could not removed, so new hardwood was put in over them.

While acknowledging that the process of applying for historic tax credits can be daunting, Recchie hopes the successful completion of their project – which she said would not have been financially feasible without the credits – will inspire other developers to follow in their footsteps.

“Part of the reason we undertook this project was to show that small-scale projects can use the credit,” she said, adding that, “these programs are not just for multi-million dollar projects.”

Recchie offered some suggestions for those looking to use tax credits for smaller projects.

“First, select a building that is already listed in the National Register of Historic Places, either individually or as a contributing building in a National Register Historic District – there are literally thousands of them in Columbus’ historic districts,” she said. Secondly, it’s helpful to use an architect that “has experience working on tax credit projects and has a thorough understanding of the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation,” which the project will have to follow.

She added that the project must be income-producing for at least five years, but the tax credits are not limited to residential projects; retail, office, industrial and mixed-use projects are also eligible.

For more info on the Lazarus House apartment rentals, check the listings on our Urban Living.

Before & After Photos Provided by Nancy Recchie.

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