Rural Athens, Ohio Downtown Redevelopment Program Gains Major Boost

The City of Athens made a determination that it wanted to pursue multiple Downtown Redevelopment Districts (DRD) to take advantage of the wealth of historic structures that are in the City and to take advantage of the planned investments that Ohio University would be making in Athens over the next couple decades.  In June 2019 the Ohio Department of Taxation certified both the 234 Washington St DRD and the Athens Depot DRD.

The Athens Depot DRD is anchored by the historic Athens Depot and contains parcels boarded by Union Street, Station Street, Depot Street, and Roberts Street. The Athens Depot DRD has a continuous boundary connected by the right-of-way of the public streets.  Development in this DRD will largely be dependent upon the relocation and renovation and construction of buildings to implement the Ohio University Union Street Green master plan of 2016.  

The 234 Washington Street Downtown Redevelopment District starts at the West End Cider House, the historic anchor for the DRD. The DRD contains the parcels bound by Byard St and West Union Street. The DRD is primarily focused on the properties that are owned or leased by Ohio University.  The potential for DRD revenue is largely dependent upon the development that occurs on these properties.  As Ohio University considers developments of the Union Street Green, the relocation of the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and Engineering, as called for in its 2016 master plan, the City and OU will consider how the DRD could be beneficial to the development.  Ohio University does not currently pay real estate property taxes on these properties and likely will not moving forward.  A key component of the DRD is the ability to establish redevelopment charges on parcels in the DRD.  The redevelopment charge works much like a special assessment and runs with the property.  In the case of the 234 Washington St DRD, a redevelopment charge may be implemented to help pay for more public infrastructure.

The City of Athens, like many Appalachian, rural towns in Ohio and across America is seeking to preserve its history while also supporting businesses, jobs and commerce in town. The elected officials and administration of Athens as well as the community and business leaders of Athens views that the establishment of a DRD as mutually beneficially to the businesses, developers and building owners operating today in the City, and to the residents of Athens. Growing businesses in Athens along with new businesses that will spring up in the DRDs and the activity that ensues in the area will provide jobs for Athens’ residents while also providing services that may not otherwise be available in downtown Athens today.  The primary goal of the Athens DRDs will be new capital investment.  A secondary, but equally important goal is the creation of jobs in the DRD.  The Athens DRDs offer Athens an opportunity to attract additional retail and service businesses as well as high-wage white collar jobs and residential through the continued investment in an economic development magnet—redevelopment of The Union Street Area.