Workers replace street lights near the Elks Building near the intersection of South Jefferson and East Third Street in the Fire Blocks District in downtown Dayton. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Dayton’s Fire Blocks faces deadline, could lose $4.5M in funds

The state of Ohio has told the group that wants to redevelop the Fire Blocks District that it has until June 30 to prove it has financing for the project or its tax credits may be rescinded.

The Ellway Group won nearly $4.5 million in state historic preservation tax credits in June 2016 to help fund the restoration of the Elks Building and the Huffman Block building on the 100 block of East Third Street.

RELATED: Photos: A look inside downtown Dayton’s Fire Blocks District

The development group’s $23 million plan was to create new housing and first-floor retail and restaurant spaces in the mostly vacant buildings.

But this month, the Ohio Development Services Agency sent a letter to Ellway Group CEO Winfield Scott Gibson saying his project has not demonstrated “sufficient evidence of reviewable progress” because the has not closed on financing, according to a copy of the letter obtained by this newspaper through a public records request.

Tax credit recipients risk losing their awards if they fail to show after 18 months that they have secured financing for their proposed rehab projects and have not commenced construction. It’s been about 21 months since the project received its award.

RELATED: Fire Blocks plan to reshape downtown Dayton faces growing pains

Last month, Gibson sent the state a letter asking to push back the project’s end date until March 31, 2019, saying there were delays related to finding a tax credit investor and securing financing, according to records obtained by this newspaper.

Tax credit recipients must file a 12- or 18-month progress report on their projects with the state.

In the letter, Gibson said project construction financing is expected to close in June and construction should begin on May 1. The state agreed to a short time extension to allow the Ellway Group to secure financing and start construction.

RELATED: 5 things to know about Fire Blocks’ $100 million proposal

But if that does not happen by the end of June, the Ohio Development Services Agency said it may rescind the approved tax credits and give them away to other projects in upcoming funding rounds.

Gibson told this newspaper that it’s “going to be tight” but he believes his group will close on financing in time to meet the deadline. He also said he has a back-up plan if the project were to lose its state historic tax credits and had to be scrapped — but he says he really hopes it does not come to that.

“The plan is the plan and we’re moving forward,” he said.

The district covers multiple blocks but centers around the 100 block of East Third Street. Companies controlled by Gibson or the Ellway Group own about nine buildings in and around downtown Dayton.

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