Canton, Ohio’s rebirth follows script similar to Erie Refocused – News – GoErie.com

Canton adopted its comprehensive plan in August of 2015. The plan calls for investments in target areas, including downtown and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In Canton, Ohio, an aging city with industrial roots, developer and preservationist Steve Coon is thankful for asbestos. 

Yes, asbestos.

The 13-story Onesto Hotel, which opened in 1930 in the heart of downtown, sat vacant for 38 years because no one could afford to abate the hazardous material. It would have met the wrecking ball decades ago had city fathers gotten their way. To them, the structure was a “blight on the city,” Coon said.

To Coon, it was an architectural gem. So he bought it in 2002, applied for a state grant and began the long process of removing the asbestos, which took years.

Coon’s efforts to change people’s perception of Canton’s downtown, which once resembled a plywood city for its boarded-up homes and businesses, also took years.

Today, the Onesto is a symbol of accomplishment for community leaders. Like Erie, Canton is in the early stages of implementing a comprehensive plan authored by CZB, the Alexandria, Va. consulting firm that wrote Erie Refocused.

Canton City Council paid $350,000 for the plan, which it approved in August of 2015.

Coon used federal and state historic tax credits and a $2 million low-interest loan from the city, which he repaid in two years, to transform the building into 45 market-rate apartments. Now known as the Historic Onesto Lofts, the building is entirely full.

“Everybody said, ‘Boy, you’re nuts. Nobody is ever going to move downtown. You must have more money than sense…,'” said Coon, who runs Coon Restoration & Sealants in nearby Louisville, Ohio. “The reality was we had these great buildings downtown and you couldn’t replicate them by building them new. We already had the infrastructure here. You had to be an idiot not to do it.”

Since the re-opening of the Onesto, Coon has restored the adjoining Bliss Tower. The metal and glass structure built in the 1960s opened recently. Already, 17 of its 55 units are spoken for. Coon said he expects it to be filled by spring.

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Coon’s company also finished restoring a portion of the former Hercules Engine Co. plant on the southern edge…

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