A DEVELOPER plans to buy the former Argyle apartments space in downtown Findlay, and the buildings to the north and south of that vacant lot — The Wine Merchant, at left, and the former Rieck’s Gallery — in order to construct a $31 million retail-residential development. (Photo by Randy Roberts)

By LOU WILIN

STAFF WRITER

California developer Tim Youngpeter — a 1975 Findlay High School graduate — wants to construct a $31 million retail-residential development in downtown Findlay, in and around the former Argyle apartment building space.

Youngpeter

Youngpeter envisions a six-story building housing retail and parking on the ground floor, and parking and 122 apartment units upstairs.

To enable the development, the Blanchard Valley Port Authority voted Thursday to offer to buy a nearby city-owned parking lot.

Construction could start in spring 2020 and be completed a year later.

Youngpeter plans to buy the former Argyle space and the buildings to the north and south, housing The Wine Merchant and the former Rieck’s Gallery.

The Wine Merchant building would be renovated. The new building would not be extended over it, Youngpeter said.

The future of the building to the north, where Rieck’s was, is uncertain.

The Argyle building was destroyed by fire in 2012.

The new building for retail, residential and parking would occupy the former Argyle building space, and the city-owned parking lot north of Hardin Street and to the rear of The Wine Merchant and the former Argyle space.

The port authority is planning to offer the city up to $150,000 for the parking lot. Though not all of the details have been disclosed, past Port Authority projects have involved the agency temporarily owning the land and new building, and leasing it to the eventual owner, who later buys it.

But the port authority’s involvement is critical for another reason: The city of Findlay cannot by law sell property directly to Youngpeter without putting the property up for auction. It can only sell property directly to another government entity. Port authorities, on the other hand, are permitted by law to sell a property directly to a person or other private entity.

The purchase proposal and more details about Youngpeter’s building are expected to be presented next week at City Council’s meeting.

Youngpeter’s vision of apartments and retail in the downtown Argyle hole would be a huge triumph for Findlay. Development experts from around the nation were doubtful of whether anyone could afford to fill the gap left by the Argyle building’s demise.

“There’s been a lot that’s changed since the Argyle burnt down,” said Tim Mayle, director of Findlay-Hancock County Economic Development.

“Our employers, we’ve seen a lot of growth,” Mayle said. “Seven thousand new jobs in the past six or seven years, not much residential development. The infrastructure that we’ve put in downtown, the environment that we’ve created downtown. There’s just been a lot of things that have happened that have made this now, a real project that can be profitable.”

After all, a developer will only invest in a project if it makes sense financially, he said.

Seven years ago, several development experts from around the country said a project on the Argyle lot could not work financially. Developers in recent years agreed, and walked away from the Argyle property.

Youngpeter, who has made a career of developing sites, analyzed the Argyle site.

“I looked at it and figured out what I could build there and I couldn’t get the numbers to work, either,” Youngpeter said.

“The one lot stand-alone will absolutely not work,” he said. “No investor would have any interest in that. You can’t get it to cash flow.”

Youngpeter needed to make the project bigger in scale, he told Mayle and Dan Sheaffer, project specialist for Findlay-Hancock County Economic Development. He needed a bigger building.

He needed to buy the building to the north housing Rieck’s and the building to the south, where The Wine Merchant is, and the parking lot to the rear.

He has obtained options on the properties fronting on Main Street. The next step to make the project work financially is to secure the parking lot.

The 122 apartment units would be in the upper-middle price range, he said. Most would be single-bedroom, some two-bedroom; and six townhouses, or two-story units, with potentially three bedrooms.

The apartments and townhouses would be on the third through sixth floors.

The parking spaces from the city-owned parking lot would be located on the second floor and the back half of the first floor. So the 150 or so parking spaces in the new building would absorb the users of the city parking lot as well as the apartment tenants.

The front end of the first floor, closer to Main Street, would house retail.

“This project will bring a lot of people that want to live downtown to downtown. It’s going to bring in more retail,” Youngpeter said. “It’s going to help the tax base of Findlay and it’s going to spur other developments that I believe are going to be similar to this one in downtown. You see it in other communities.”

Wilin: 419-427-8413 Send an E-mail to Lou Wilin

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