Aided by the Rehabilitation Investment Tax Credit available to
owners of income-producing properties listed on the National Register of Historic
Places, developers 660 Lincoln LLC and Neyer Architects & Engineers have
transformed an early automobile plant into a modern office building while preserving
its vintage character. Built in 1915 by Ford Motor Company, the six-story plant
was used to make the Model T and had several other uses over the years. It was
added to the National Register in 1989. By the 1990s, the abandoned Ford Factory
had become known as "the Graffiti Building" thanks to its condition
and its prominent location on I-71.
Most of the windows were shattered, and bricks were crumbling onto the highway below,
prompting a local newspaper to award it the title "Blight of the Week".
At one point, the city proposed tearing it down, but the high cost of demolishing
such a well-built building -- estimated at up to $1.2 million -- was a deterrent.
In 2001, four real estate developers and investors formed 660 Lincoln LLC to
rehabilitate the old Ford plant as loft office space. The office market was
soft, but the developers believed that the highly visible location, historic architecture, and solid
construction offered a sound opportunity for distinctive offices that would
have a unique appeal. With the goal of bringing the building back to life, they
bought it at a sheriff's sale for back taxes. Ultimately, they wanted to clean
up the mess, make a positive impact on the community, and "do well by doing
good." Close cooperation by the development, design, construction, and
marketing teams during the course of the project contributed to its success.
In addition, efforts to build community awareness about the project yielded
substantial publicity and support. The $10.5 million project has contributed
to revitalization of the surrounding neighborhood, as well. The project is fully
leased at market-rate or above-market-rate rents, an indication of its success.