Group says Kettering’s Barnes school may be eligible for historic register

District says 94-year-old building is not good use of taxpayer money, but board is open to private preservation efforts

KETTERING — A state group says the D.L. Barnes building may be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, according to a Dayton preservation organization.

The Ohio State Historic Preservation Office said “it is highly likely” that the 94-year-old structure Kettering schools is moving to demolish could be in line for that designation, Preservation Dayton Inc. said in a letter to the school district.

“Preservation Dayton has experts who are available to assist in the nomination process and is willing to provide consulting services to complete and submit the nomination at no charge to the Kettering school system,” its president, Monica Snow, stated in the letter dated March 22.

The Kettering school board first decided late last year that maintaining the Barnes site — the district’s oldest building, circa 1929 — was not a cost-effective use of taxpayer money.

Administrative and school board officials from the Kettering district have since said they would be open to hearing viable alternatives on how private funds could possibly preserve at least part of the former high school and junior high at 3750 Far Hills Ave.

Having Ohio sites designated as historic “is not an uncommon” instance, said Neil Thompson, spokesman for the Ohio History Connection, which houses the State Historic Preservation Office.

Thompson could not comment Thursday specifically on the Barnes property. But commonly, one or two properties in the state are named to the National Register of Historic Places per month, he added.

Preservation Dayton is one of two organizations seeking to save at least part of the building. The Schiewetz Foundation has also reached out to the school district, and a study is being done on the feasibility of saving the original part of the building.

The study was set to be discussed in meetings this week, Jeff Johnson, Kettering schools business services director, said Wednesday.

Johnson said he recently talked with architects seeking to implement a plan for the original section of the building.

“We’re close, real close” to the study’s completion, he said.

The school district is waiting until the study is finished before responding to Preservation Dayton’s suggestions and questions about the site’s future, Kettering schools spokeswoman Kari Basson has said.

The Kettering school board in February signed off on seeking bids for Barnes’ environmental abatement, a necessary step regardless of the building’s future, board President Toby Henderson said.

Snow also sent a letter to the Kettering board of education last month, citing concerns for the building’s history, environmental issues and a regional housing shortage.

In this week’s letter, she said the historic designation would also create an option for developers to apply for state and federal historic tax credits toward renovation work.

“Preservation Dayton also has experts who are willing to meet to explain the benefits and process for applying for historic tax credits,” she said in the letter. “Tax credits can offset as much as 45% of the cost for renovating the building for any or all portions that are used for revenue-generating, private-sector entities.”

That “would make the sale of the school much more attractive to private developers,” she added.

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