The empty corner storefront, sitting so prominently in uptown Maumee, made the area feel emptier than it really was, some said.
The 6,000-square-foot building at Wayne and Conant streets was once a patio furniture store. It has been vacant since the store went out of business three years ago.
Now, a community arts center is proposed for the space.
"It'll bring that whole area a little more alive," said Brenda Clixby, Maumee Chamber of Commerce's executive director.
But the private-public partnership isn't a done deal. It hinges on a $200,000 state grant, which Maumee city officials expect to know next month if they received.
Late last week, the city submitted a grant application to the Ohio Department of Development. The proposal also calls for property owner Bob Reichardt to contribute $200,000 and Sunshine Inc. to put in $26,118 for renovations such as accessibility for the handicapped and updating of the heating and cooling system.
Sunshine, a Maumee nonprofit organization, would use the space for its pottery program for people with disabilities, sell the pottery tiles to benefit the group, and offer art classes to the public.
About 40 people use the kiln at Sunshine's campus, 7223 Maumee Western Rd. But the uptown Maumee location could allow that number to grow to employ an additional 25 people with disabilities, said Deb Rasmusson, Sunshine's director of vocational services.
"Our space in our campus is very, very limited -- literally in a spare room at our vocational center. This would make it a more pleasant shopping environment," Ms. Rasmusson said. "[The uptown location] is a great retail space because of the big windows, and it wraps the corner and is in such a prominent spot."
Moving into the building would not be Sunshine's first business endeavor in uptown Maumee. Since 2005, it has run Georgette's Grounds & Gifts, which employs about 25 people with disabilities.
John Jezak, Maumee city administrator, said the community arts center could revive the historic building, which was constructed in 1877 and was once a department store.
"It's a great building," Mr. Jezak said. "It's not owned by [the city], but it's part of the history and architecture over here."
He called the city's community block grant application one of the strongest grant requests of his career. But he pointed to the competitiveness of 88 counties fighting for $1.5 million in state dollars.
Ms. Rasmusson said Sunshine would still push for the community center, even if the grant money is denied. That might mean negotiating a deal with Mr. Reichardt or looking for a smaller space elsewhere in Maumee, she said.
If the city wins the grant, the community center probably would not open for at least six months, she said.