Main Street Delaware sees empty house as welcome center, more

PAUL COMSTOCK
editorial@thisweeknews.com
Main Street Delaware hopes to transform this city-owned house at 20 E. William St. into a Delaware welcome center by next summer.

Small businesses are expected to reap the benefits when Main Street Delaware opens a welcome center at 20 E. William St., tentatively in summer 2021.

"Small businesses in the downtown and businesses potentially throughout the county will benefit from having a welcome center because it will be a central location for residents and visitors to obtain information about everything Delaware has to offer," said Main Street Delaware director Susie Bibler.

"We will be providing marketing materials in the space and answering questions," she said. "Main Street Delaware is seeking to take the lead in this as our vibrant downtown is a draw for tourists, and we want them to feel informed and welcome."

Delaware City Council on July 27 approved a 10-year lease, with two five-year renewal options, with Main Street Delaware.

The city purchased the brick house in 2001, and it housed the city engineering department until 2015, when it moved to the new consolidated public-works facility at 440 E. William St., said city community-affairs coordinator Lee Yoakum.

The building has been vacant since then, he said.

"The city explored reuses and purposes for the site, including for additional downtown parking, public restrooms and a visitor information kiosk," Yoakum said.

"The city ultimately decided not to pursue this approach or the demolition of the structure that would have been required," he said. "Instead, it began discussions with Main Street.

"The plan we see today breathes fresh life into the structure, allows us to work with a fabulous partner and provides a welcome center for the community -- win, win, win."

Bibler said it's anticipated the center will house the Main Street Delaware offices, now at 20 E. Winter St., and the upstairs has the potential to hold four offices.

"We are still working out the specifics on tenants but realize that collaboration and partnerships in the community are important," she said.

She said Main Street Delaware expects the welcome center -- a stone's throw from Delaware City Hall and Sandusky Street's restaurants and businesses -- to receive foot traffic because of the interest in the community.

"We plan to have the welcome center open during events that take place in our downtown and will be providing public restrooms," Bibler said.

"We have some work to do to the building first, and the majority of the work is on the outside of the building," she said.

Main Street Delaware president Zach Price told City Council the organization is in good financial shape despite the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Revenue is down, but so are expenses, he said.

"The majority of Main Street's finances come from hosting events as well as private donations ... and membership," Price said. "We still have a strong membership. We continue to do fundraising. However, that has become more difficult, and not being able to host the events has probably been the most difficult impact that we've had to see affect our budget.

"That said, Main Street is in a stronger financial position and went into this pandemic in a stronger financial position than I believe Main Street may have ever been in, at least since I've been involved," he said.

A report from City Manager Tom Homan, attached to the July 27 council agenda, said the lease is for $1 a year.

"Staff believes this to be a fair partnership for the level of investment Main Street will make into the city's asset and the mutual benefit it will bring to the community," the report reads.

It adds that Main Street Delaware has approached the Delaware County Convention & Visitors Bureau, which might have an interest in moving to the welcome center.

Assistant City Manager Kyle Kridler told council Main Street Delaware is expected to invest more than $200,000 in renovating and restoring the building.

Funding sources include a facade grant from the city, plus a Heritage Ohio grant and a state capital grant, he said.

Main Street also will launch a capital fundraising campaign in the coming weeks, Price said at the meeting.

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