During the Main Street Festival, developers led tours of the four-story brick building destined for retail and rental units

NORTH CANTON  The line of people waiting to enter the former Hoover factory Saturday stretched across E Maple Street.

During the Main Street Festival, developers led tours of the four-story brick building destined for retail and rental units. Visitors watched an informative video before walking through open-air courtyards and apartments under construction.

"As we're walking through this, everything needs to be painted," Mayor David Held noted.

He joined state Rep. Kirk Schuring, R-Jackson Township, former mayor Dave Johnson and at-large councilmen Mark Cerreta and Dan Griffith on a tour led by Carol Smith, vice president of development for IRG Realty Advisors.

Smith showed them a 1,100-square-foot, two-bedroom unit facing Main Street. It had drywall and a bathtub, as did the two-bedroom unit with an office in the opposite direction. It overlooked a planned courtyard near the former power plant.

Both apartments were awash in natural light, with wall sections cut out to take advantage of sunlight coming in the new windows. Smith said "simulated-type concrete" covered old, wood floors to quiet footsteps between stories.

The exposed ceiling revealed air ducts, a new sprinkler system, new wood beams, and old beams with chipping paint. The exterior-facing brick wall also hinted of the building's history as Hoover vacuum cleaner headquarters.

"It'll all stay exposed for that total industrial loft style feel," Smith said.

The completion date for the western, 400,000-square-foot portion has been pushed back since 2015 and now is slated for late 2018 or early 2019. From the outside, Held said, it doesn't look like much is happening. The tours were meant to show that's not the case inside.

The more than $50 million undertaking by IRG, which operates Maple Street Commerce, promises retail on the first floor and at least 130 apartments on the upper floors. Smith said the market-rate units will include one bedrooms of 754 square feet to three bedrooms of 1,506 square feet. There's already a waiting list.

A restaurant is planned for the former power plant, just below the Hoover chimney stack. Steel beams and elevated walkways are illuminated by several windows. 

"This is the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory," Held said, comparing the high-ceiling power plant to the fictional chocolatier's workshop.

Because new construction is less costly than renovating old buildings, the work relies heavily on historic tax credits, $5 million of which came from the state.

"Without the historic tax credits, projects like this wouldn't happen," Smith said. "They're critical."

An earlier phase transformed the eastern portion of the 88-acre site into office space and expanded the nearby parking lot. Smith said 1,100 jobs have been created by tenants, which include Altercare of Ohio, Absolute Health Services, and the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation.

Held said the city, which helped secure grants, contributed about $400,000 from the Community Improvement Corp. to buy gantry cranes for the anchor tenant — Myers Controlled Power.

When the Hoover Co. left North Canton in 2007, the city's largest employer took a significant amount of income tax revenue with it. Held said North Canton collected about $7 million in income tax in 2000 but, with the factory loss combined with an overall economic downturn, the city only collected $5.4 million by 2010.

Maple Street Commerce bought the former factory in 2008, and Held said the city now collects about $400,000 in annual income tax from workers in the Hoover District. As North Canton's economy has diversified, its income tax revenue has rebounded.

"Now we are back up," Held said. "We're just above where we were at when Hoover left."

Reach Kelly at 330-580-8323

or kelly.byer@cantonrep.com

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