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Retail, apartments in plan for revival of Burt’s Theatre site

Posted By: Toledo Blade on December 28, 2022.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

Burt’s Theatre, better known by its most recent incarnation as Caesar’s Showbar, has been awarded a $908,360 state tax credit toward its renovation into retail and housing space, the Ohio governor’s office announced.

The $8.3 million renovation of the multistory building at 725 Jefferson Ave. — already in an advanced state of decay when Caesar’s was shut down for building-code violations in 2010 — is one of five projects in Toledo to which Gov. Mike DeWine announced the award of Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits.

Joe Marck, director of development for IBC, Inc., the one-time theater’s owner, said the tax credit’s approval followed several previous applications that didn’t quite make the cut.

“It seemed to have gotten so close for several rounds past,” he said.

The building’s renovation is just expensive enough to place it in a scoring tier for larger-scale projects, which appeared to hurt its prospects until the funding pool increased this time around, Mr. Marck also said.

Two other chosen projects are in Tiffin and Findlay, and the total Dec. 23 announcement identifies 54 statewide that are expected to restore 57 historic buildings.

The Burt’s Theatre restoration has the highest estimated price tag among the Toledo projects.

The $6.4 million restoration of the Craft Master Building, an office and warehouse structure at 328 N. Westwood Ave. built in 1946 and vacant since 2001, is receiving a $1 million tax credit, although part of that credit is from a previous award round.

The other three local tax credits are for renovating residential buildings on Lagrange and Superior streets in North Toledo.

The $390,778 renovation of a 1912-vintage duplex at 523 Lagrange to restore a pair of two-bedroom dwellings has received a $94,947 tax credit, while renovations of 19th-century houses at 907 and 913 N. Superior St. into multi-family apartment buildings are expected to cost $789,145 and $852,519 and will get tax credits of $192,643 and $207,241, respectively.

In Findlay, a downtown brick building at 331 N. Main St. is to undergo a $1.35 million renovation for which a $221,000 tax credit was announced, while in Tiffin, the former Empire Hotel at 160-164 S. Washington St. is to be restored as a boutique hotel in an $8,809,114 project for which a $1.04 million credit was announced. Both buildings have endured extended vacancy.

The building in Findlay is to house offices and retail on its ground floor and 10 dwellings on its second and third floors.

The renovation of the one-time Burt’s Theatre has a similar objective, with ground-floor retail and 15 upper-floor apartments.

Mr. Marck said IBC has already engaged a builder for the project and is now discussing details. Construction could begin in mid-2023, he said, and under favorable conditions could be finished by the end of 2024.

Modeled after a 15th century Venetian palace, Burt’s opened in 1898 and operated as a theater until 1916, after which it was converted into an auto showroom and warehouse. It later became a bar.

Caesar’s moved its show bar, featuring drag performances that became the Toledo area’s most celebrated of that genre, to 725 Jefferson in 1996 from a previous location on Erie Street. But code violations dogged the aging building and renovation plans fell through. In 2005, a Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority bus that swerved to avoid an errant motorist on Jefferson careened into the building’s facade. And in 2009 a roof cornice partially collapsed, littering the sidewalk with debris.

The bar stayed open after the roof incident, but early the following year the city shut it down for numerous code violations. They included blocked exits, dangerous electrical installations, and untested fire-safety systems. It has been vacant ever since, although some repairs have been made to stabilize its exterior.

The tax credit application process specified identifying the building by its original name, Mr. Marck said, but “I’m not sure what we’ll end up calling it” when it opens to tenants. A reference to its Venetian design is among the possibilities, he said.

Other than the tax credit, the building’s renovation will use “traditional bank financing for the most part,” he said.

Mr. Marck’s company already is renovating the former Barber Farris produce warehouse at 144 S. Huron St. after receiving an $823,396 tax credit in July

IBC also owns the Craft Master Building, for which it was awarded an initial $250,000 tax credit in that previous round.

Craft Master, also known as the Paint-by-Numbers Building, was where Craft Master Paint by Numbers kits were made and warehoused between 1954 and 2001 — first by the Palmer Paint company until 1967, then by General Mills and subsequent owners thereafter. Before that, it was used for manufacturing and producing kitchen appliances and then other small appliances such as hospital food-conveyor systems.

While its single-story, slab-on-grade architecture is unremarkable, the building’s history was cited when city officials agreed during the summer to grant it historic landmark status.

Mr. Marck said it was probably advantageous to these projects that they were nominated when they were.

He said that is because in the near future, they would have had to compete with impending renovation projects at three of the “Four Corners” buildings near the intersection of Madison Avenue and Huron Street in downtown Toledo. They include redevelopment of the Spitzer and Nicholas buildings.

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