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Published: Tuesday, 9/11/2012

Empty space to become center for art


For three years, the building on busy Conant Street was dark.

It was the kind of blight that made uptown Maumee feel empty because the shuttered business took up about 6,000 square feet.

But that space at the intersection of Wayne and Conant streets will get new life in the upcoming months, thanks to a partnership among the city, a private owner, and a nonprofit organization.

Maumee City Administrator John Jezak has announced that the city won a $200,000 community development block grant from the state, the catalyst for the building to be converted into an art studio.

The studio will be a place where people with disabilities can make and sell pottery, and the public can take art classes.

Mr. Jezak estimated it could open early next year.

"It means a lot to the city," Mr. Jezak said last week, a day after he received the official contract for the grant in the mail. "It ends up capitalizing, or building upon, the ambiance of uptown Maumee."

The studio is to be operated by Sunshine Inc., a nonprofit agency that works with people who have disabilities.

Just down Conant Street, Sunshine also runs Georgette's Grounds & Gifts, which employs about 25 people with disabilities.

"We're very excited. We think it's a great opportunity," said Elizabeth Holland, Sunshine president, about the new art studio. "We think it will be a great offering for the community."

The 135-year-old building has a storied history, dating back to when it was a department store and later a patio furniture store. That business closed three years ago.

"It's a building that's been with us for many generations," Mr. Jezak said. "It's part of the Maumee skyline."

As part of the state grant, property owner Bob Reichardt will pay an additional $200,000 and Sunshine will put in $26,118 toward renovating the building.

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