Businesses seek temporary homes
Grandview Avenue stores, offices displaced as fire destroys building
A three-alarm fire Saturday caused an estimated $3-million damage to the building, located between Third and Fifth avenues.
The building housed about 27 businesses, said Angela Zeigler, chief operating officer for Wagenbrenner's property management division.
The fire damaged the building beyond repair, Zeigler said.
"It's just so devastating. I think we're all in a state of shock," she said.
"A lot of small businesses are just barely hanging on these days," Zeigler said. "To have a fire like this happen, some of these businesses may have a hard time making it."
By Tuesday morning, Zeigler had found temporary locations for many of the businesses that had offices in the building.
"We also have about six or seven retail businesses, and it's going to be more of a challenge with them because retail space is hard to find in this area," she said.
The building itself will have to be demolished and rebuilt, Zeigler said.
"I'm quite sure it will have retail again, but whether it will be the same design or size I don't know," she said.
The fire came as the Grandview Avenue district "was really starting to come together," Zeigler said. "With things like the Grandview Hop happening every spring and summer, I think the whole area was really taking off.
"I think Grandview Avenue will recover from this, but in the short term, it's going to be difficult," she said.
Zeigler owns Accent on Nature, one of the businesses located in the Kingswood Building.
Accent on Nature may partner with another business to share retail space, she said.
The fire was first reported at about 10:49 a.m. Saturday, said Kelly McGuire, a public information assistant with the Columbus Division of Fire.
About 135 to 140 firefighters from Columbus, Grandview and Upper Arlington battled the blaze, which was contained by about 1:30 p.m., she said.
Firefighters were battling the frigid weather conditions as much as, if not more than, the fire, Columbus Battalion Chief Doug Smith said.
"The wind was really bad. It definitely helped spread the fire rather rapidly," he said.
Firefighters had to keep the fire hoses running continuously to prevent a freeze-up, Smith said.
The third alarm for the fire was made to ensure there were enough firefighters on hand to put a rotation in place so crew members could take breaks and warm in up heated tents that were set up at the scene, he said.
"When you're dealing with weather conditions that are that brutal, you have to take a break every hour or hour and a half," Smith said.
Columbus Fire Captain James Dennis was treated at Ohio State University Medical Center for facial burns, McGuire said.
Grandview Fire Chief Hank Kauffman said four of his firefighters responded to the blaze and two of them had minor cuts and bruises they suffered from slipping on the ice.
"As soon as the water hit the pavement, it would freeze," he said. "They had such adrenaline going they didn't realize they were hurt until they returned to our station."
Columbus firefighters maintained a fire watch over the site through Tuesday morning, McGuire said.
The investigation into the cause of the fire continues, but it appears the fire was accident and not of suspicious origin, Smith said.
The fire appears to have started in a second floor attic shared by a number of businesses, he said.
One of the first people who called 911 to report the fire was John Green, the owner of Green A Floral Design Studio located across the street from the building.
Green said a friend of his always stops by his business after picking up mail at the Grandview Avenue post office.
"He came in and I saw some smoke and jokingly said to him, 'Looks like your truck is on fire,'" Green said.
But when they stepped outside, they could see puffs of smoke rising through the air from the upper floor of the Kingswood building, he said.
"It looked like it was coming out from The Candle Lab (at 1386 Grandview Ave.)," Green said.
He said he immediately called 911, then went back outside, where looking up at a window he could see burning debris falling.
"It was surreal," Green said. "I couldn't believe it was happening."
While the Kingswood Building was heavily damaged by the fire, the Z Cucina restaurant on the southern edge of the building was not damaged.
An atrium-like structure that connects the restaurant to the main building provided a buffer from the fire, Z Cucina owner Rick Ziliak said.
"That's what saved us, there's no doubt about it," he said. "I feel very fortunate. My heart goes out to the other businesses that weren't so lucky. I'm very concerned about whether the fire is going to knock some of them out of business. And I'm grateful no one was hurt."
Ziliak was able to reopen his restaurant Tuesday night.
He said the businesses that use the office space above his restaurant should also be able to return.
Zeigler said she and the other business owners are trying to support each other and "start figuring out what's next.
"We're just so grateful for all of the firefighters and all the effort they gave fighting this fire," she said. "A lot of them have stayed at the site helping us retrieve items from our businesses. They've just been wonderful."