WAUSEON - The scene of an April, 2007, fire that damaged a half-dozen downtown businesses will begin its rebirth this week as a $6 million development.
More than 200 public officials, business owners, and members of the public are expected to attend a groundbreaking ceremony at 5 p.m. tomorrow for a 28,000-square-foot retail, restaurant, and hotel development in the heart of downtown Wauseon. Mayor Jerry Dehnbostel hails the event as a turning point for the city.
"I just really feel that this is going to be a major step in the resurgence of downtown," the mayor said. "It's becoming vibrant again."
The development, which is being undertaken by Wauseon Downtown Development, includes space for five shops, a restaurant with a banquet room, and a 20-room hotel.
Developers have received inquiries for a dry cleaner, flower shop, clothing store, nail salon, and wine and cheese shop, said Charles Bryan, a partner in the company and the former owner of Doc Holliday's restaurant, one of the businesses destroyed in the blaze.
Mr. Bryan and William van Bakel of Vreba-Hoff Dairy Development formed Downtown Wauseon Development shortly after the fire and began making plans to rebuild.
"No one was building downtown," Mr. Bryan said. "A lot of the [business owners] couldn't go back into downtown and build."
Many of the displaced businesses, including Shaw's Clothing, Gallippo's Photography, JMW Computer, and Welles Bowen Realtors, relocated to Shoop Avenue, said Sue Dieringer, president of the Downtown Merchants Association. One of the businesses, T.H.E. Health Food Store, closed permanently, she said.
The new development will have a brick facade, with a clock tower and space for outdoor seating, Mr. Bryan said.
"It will be contemporary on the inside with the old downtown look on the outside," he said.
A few of the burned-out businesses have proposed returning to downtown, Mr. Bryan said.
Merchants' association members are pleased.
"It will be great aesthetically for the town," Ms. Dieringer said. "And it will be great to bring new business to the downtown."
Authorities are still investigating the fire, which was declared to be arson.
Damage was estimated at $3 million.
Contact Angie Schmitt at:
or 419-724-6104.41.55019 -84.13435