By LOU WILIN

STAFF WRITER

Here are four takeaways from the plan for a $31 million residential-retail development in downtown Findlay:

• The proposed development would represent a triumph for Findlay.

When the old Argyle building was destroyed by fire in 2012, it left a gap — likened to a toothless grin — in downtown, right across the street from Marathon Petroleum Corp. headquarters.

Experts said the hole would discourage pedestrians from walking by, and make life harder on neighboring buildings, owners and businesses. Holes in a downtown reduce income, tax revenue and jobs, ultimately hurting the entire downtown and city.

Findlay-Hancock County economic development leaders immediately began working to fill the hole. Development of condominiums, apartments and retail was sought.

But out-of-town experts seemed doubtful it could be done.

They deemed it unaffordable because rental rates in the former Argyle space could not be set high enough to pay for a new building.

However, Tim Youngpeter has said the project can be affordable with a bigger building. He is proposing a building not only on the former Argyle site, but extending into the parking lot to the rear.

Some details are yet to be disclosed about the building. But so far he has proposed retail and parking on the first floor, more parking on the second floor, and apartments and townhouses, or two-story apartments, on the third through sixth floors.

• The project is not a done deal. For it to happen, Youngpeter still needs to gain control of the downtown properties involved.

Youngpeter has options to buy the Argyle property and the properties immediately to the north and south. The only missing piece of property he needs is the city-owned parking lot to the west, which is north of Hardin Street and east of Trinity Episcopal Church.

Ohio law allows the city and most other governmental entities to sell a property only by auction or to another governmental entity. The city of Findlay cannot by law sell it directly to Youngpeter without putting the property up for auction.

But it can sell it to the Blanchard Valley Port Authority, and port authorities are permitted by law to sell a property directly to a person or other private entity.

Past projects of the Blanchard Valley Port Authority have involved the agency temporarily owning the land and new building, and leasing it to the eventual owner, who later buys it.

Youngpeter and port authority officials are expected to approach city officials at a meeting next week about selling the parking lot. They plan to disclose more details about Youngpeter’s development plan. They are hoping the city would agree to sell the parking lot by June.

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

• Those who now use the city-owned parking lot would be able to park in the proposed new building, said Tim Mayle, director of Findlay-Hancock County Economic Development.

The city-owned parking lot north of Hardin Street, and west of The Wine Merchant and the former Argyle property, is used by Hancock County employees; downtown businesses and employees; and the general public.

The 150 or so parking spaces planned in the new building would accommodate all those users as well as building tenants, Mayle said.

• The man proposing the residential-retail development in the old Argyle space has strong Findlay connections.

Youngpeter refers to himself as a Findlay boy.

He calls The Wine Merchant building he wants to renovate “the old Cooper Service building,” referring to a business that was there long ago.

Youngpeter’s family moved here shortly after he was born, and he was raised in Findlay. He graduated from Findlay High School in 1975.

“It’s my hometown. I absolutely love Findlay,” he said. “It will always be my hometown.”

Though he is vice president of The Alliance Group, in Rancho Cucamonga, California, Youngpeter bought a house in Findlay last year.

He said he gets to Findlay every three weeks. He will be spending more time here beginning in June, he said. By then he would be assured of having all the properties he needs for his project.

Youngpeter said he was “very involved in the build-out” of the Findlay Village Mall decades ago, and he built the Elder-Beerman department store. He said he has built numerous projects around Findlay, many of them in the trucking industry.

“Development is something that I’ve done most of my life, and you win some and you lose some,” he said. “This is my swan song, this project.”

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

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