Developers nearing acquisition

Brenden West/Clinton HeraldEconomic Growth Corporation developers plan not only to redevelop the front of the Wilson Building but also the neighboring alley.

CLINTON — The start of April marks the month Wilson Building development group Economic Growth Corporation said it plans to officially obtain the property. Administration director Beth Payne said the corporation is still on target.

In December, EGC announced an $8.3 million investment that will add 32 market-rate apartment units to the historic multi-story structure. It plans to utilize a number of financing methods, with historic tax credits and tax increment financing from the city of Clinton among them.

Payne said developers feel so confident about their project that they plan to purchase the Wilson Building prior to obtaining those credits. This is out of character for EGC, which plans to obtain the title on April 15.

"I feel like it's going to help continue to be a catalyst for downtown development," Payne said Wednesday. "We keep chugging along. It's definitely a great balancing act."

The corporation has issued a number of applications: one for the state's Workforce Housing Tax Credit, others for state and federal historic credits, and another in pursuit of a federal Brownfield Tax Incentive.

"Right now the project is worth about $8.7 million," Payne said. "The tax credits are what makes it possible for us to complete these projects."

Once the sale is final, the Wilson development will enter a new phase. Payne called this "stabilization."

Because the property has been vacant for so long, developers need to clear out the excess so that contractors can begin preliminary work. This would keep EGC on target for an October groundbreaking.

"It's so by the time we have our groundbreaking, we're going to have space to start construction," Payne said. "By July, I think we'll have our hard construction numbers so we can really look at where we'll be for our groundbreaking."

EGC CEO Brian Hollenback stated in February that his group is committed to turning the lights back on in the Wilson Building. Payne added it's important that the public get a visual that work is being done to make the development a reality.

That's why EGC also is working to partner with the Downtown Clinton Alliance prior to breaking ground. The corporation would put signage in the building's commercial storefront, and the DCA is attempting to obtain funding to spruce up the alley behind the Fifth Avenue South structure.

DCA director Jacob Couppee said his group is still in the early stages of that initiative. The tentative plan is to involve local artists in revitalizing the alley.

"We have a good working relationship with EGC," Couppee said. "It's been fun working with them. We really look forward to inviting them downtown, and we're eagerly awaiting their closing on the sale."

EGC is one of the Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce's newest members, a not-as-visual signifier that development is taking place. But Payne said she's looking forward to continually showing the community that efforts are constantly in the works.

"It's going to make a really great visual impact on the downtown," Payne said. "We hope that it will get the downtown community, as well as the city, thinking about how we can really light up this area.

"Live downtown. Work downtown. Be downtown. It's all going to add that much more of an impact to a project that's already seen as a major catalyst."

Assistant Editor Brenden West can be contacted at brendenwest@clintonherald.com.

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