From the Print

Barr to go the way of mill?

Jim Hammond, who saved the Grinnell Mill from almost certain demise, has brought his interest in historic properties closer to the village. Last week he and his wife Libby Hammond purchased the Barr property from Friends Care Community. The sale closed on Friday.

Hammond said this week that he and his wife have not yet decided on a use for the 1.6-acre property on the northeast corner of Limestone Street and Xenia Avenue. They have been looking to invest in Yellow Springs for a while, he said, and when the opportunity to buy the Barr lot arose, they took it. They hope to collaborate with villagers to plan a project that will be of good use to the community.

“It’s so early on, we don’t know what’s possible and what isn’t, but we’ll work with the village on the best uses for the property,” Hammond said this week. “For right now, everything’s up for grabs.”

Friends board chair Todd Leventhal said this week that the care center was glad to have worked with Dunphy Real Estate to find a local buyer. The purchase price allowed the care center to more than recover the $300,000 the business had invested in senior apartment plans, which Friends abandoned in 2009 due to lack of financing.
“We’re very happy to be able to sell the property to someone locally, someone with local roots,” Leventhal said this week. “I love what he’s done with the mill, and I think whatever he decides to do with the property he’ll do in that fashion too.”

Until last month, Buckeye Community Hope Foundation held an option to purchase the property for another senior apartment building project to be built in partnership with Home, Inc. In August the Hammonds had purchased a contingency option to buy the property if Buckeye chose not to, and when funding for the apartment project fell through over the summer, Home, Inc. released its option for the Hammonds to take.

Because the partners of the senior housing effort have said they plan to pursue the apartments on a different property in the village, Hammond sees the most recent change of ownership as a new phase for the property. The Hammonds plan first to do a thorough assessment of the condition of the Barr house, which according to Hammond appears to need significant work in order to be rehabilitated. He doubts the feasibility of moving the house, and said the most likely path will be to reuse some of the materials to build whatever comes next.

“It doesn’t look like it’s economically feasible to restore the house — it’s not in good shape,” he said this week. “The Mill was different because it had a timber frame that was reusable. We’re still looking into it, but this would take a lot to fix it.”

In 2003, when the Grinnell Mill was slated for demolition, Hammond stepped in to work with the Miami Township Trustees to buy the property from Antioch University. He invested four years and significant personal funds to restore the mill and turn it into a museum to honor the region’s milling history. The property is now owned by the Grinnell Mill Foundation, but Hammond is still involved in running the museum and bed and breakfast that generates maintenance funds for the property.

Hammond owns W.A. Hammond Drierite Company, an industrial dessicant and dye production business located in Xenia. He and his wife live on a property just south of the village, where, for fun, Hammond restores and flies historic airplanes.

Hammond expects to start on the Barr property soon by clearing a significant number of dead or dying trees. Then he expects to start talking about future options.

“It’s such a neat piece of property right in the downtown,” he said. “We’ll work with the village as a whole to figure something out. We’ll come up with something neat. We’ll do something fun.”

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