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‘Unique Partnership’ Has High Hopes for Near East Side Project

Brent Warren Brent Warren ‘Unique Partnership’ Has High Hopes for Near East Side ProjectMichael Kelley, Rev. Dr. Otha Gilyard and Otto Beatty III stand in front of 48 Parkwood Ave. Photos by Brent Warren.
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A plan to build new apartments and renovate a long-vacant building across from East High School was awarded Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits today.

That means the project, which has been working its way through the Near East Area Commission approval process, will be moving forward. It also means that a partnership that formed two years ago to come up with a solution for the troubled site may start to see its efforts pay off.

Rev. Dr. Otha Gilyard is the senior pastor at Shiloh Baptist Church and the former president of the Ohio Baptist General Convention, which has owned the ornate brick building at 48 Parkwood Ave. – along with the two adjacent buildings to the south – for decades. Although the organization has not used the building as its headquarters since the mid-90s, various plans to renovate and utilize all three of the building failed to come to fruition, and they each fell into a state of disrepair.

“We were thinking we could [develop the buildings] on our own… but we discovered that we really didn’t have the resources to make that work,” said Dr. Gilyard. “You can always sell property like that, but it’s always better if you can do something constructive with it, and make it viable again.”

It was at that time that a chance encounter with Maude Hill, the Senior Vice President of Community & Government Relations at the affordable housing developer Homeport, led to an introduction to Michael Kelley, whose Kelley Companies had worked on several projects on the Near East Side, including the renovation of the Hotel St. Clair.

Kelley had also been speaking with local entrepreneur and real estate investor Otto Beatty III, who had expressed an interest in investing in projects in the neighborhood.

The three men sat down and started to brainstorm ideas for the site.

“We tried a lot of different avenues…our main goal initially was to also try to save the south building,” said Kelley, referring to a white, brick building that once held a nursing home but was in worse shape than the former headquarters building. A historic preservation consultant suggested that tax credits could be viable for renovating 48 Parkwood, but another plan would be needed for the rest of the site.

A view of the renovated building at 48 Parkwood Ave. (on the left), and of the proposed new apartment building. Surface lots behind the two buildings would provide parking. Rendering by Schooley Caldwell.

The plan that the group settled on is to demolish the white brick building – as well as its neighbor, a smaller, two-unit building – and replace them with a new, 27-unit apartment building. Another nine apartments will be developed in 48 Parkwood, which will also hold office space on the first floor for the Ohio Baptist General Convention.

The group plans to rent all of the apartments at rates affordable to those making less than 100 percent of the area median income (and the majority will be pegged at the 80 percent level). The ownership interest in the project will be split between the three partners.

In a neighborhood that is changing rapidly, and where churches and church-affiliated groups own a significant amount of real estate, all three partners expressed hope that this project could serve as a model for others.

“It really has been, just wonderful,” said Dr. Gilyard, explaining that his role has been to work with the other leadership of the Ohio Baptist General Convention to come up with a plan for the property that works for the neighborhood and for the organization. “I’m just operating on behalf of the convention, and the whole thing for the convention is to generate revenue to do ministry…and I think this is really unique in terms of that, and hopefully it will be duplicated somewhere else.”

“I’m glad to be invited to be involved in the project,” added Beatty, whose roots in the neighborhood go back three generations. “The Near East Side is very, very near and dear to my heart…my family came here in 1938 and has owned several businesses in the area, and worked on renovating many properties in this area as well.”

Although the proposal will still need to get approval from the Near East Area Commission and the city, Kelley called the awarding of the tax credits an “important step” in that process.

“It’s been a blessing to have gotten to know [Rev. Gilyard] and Otto,” he added. “I think this is a unique partnership, I think we each come to it from different experiences and areas of expertise, but I think what makes it possible is we all fundamentally have the same values, as far as community-mindedness, and wanting to be proud of what we do and treat people the right way.”

Another view of the proposal, visual by Schooley Caldwell.
48 Parkwood Ave.
Another view of the building, which would hold nine apartments after renovation.
Brick detailing on 48 Parkwood.
This building, which once held a nursing home, would be torn down to make way for the new apartments.
This two-unit building would also be demolished.
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