A quick look at the Rieger Lofts Web site promises one- and two-bedroom loft apartments with square footage from 460 to 1,090 -- available in early 2006.
The luxury apartments would feature 13-foot ceilings, private balconies and waterfront views from some units. The 21st-century reuse of a historic 1912 hotel would offer first floor retail or office space with an on-site fitness center, roof sundeck and rooftop meeting room.
Fast forward to August 2007.
The only structural changes have been provided by Mother Nature as she flings bricks from the structure to the sidewalk and street below. The only occupants are stray cats. The rooftop provides meeting space for a diverse group of pigeons and seagulls.
What happened here?
Greg Spatz, building owner and president of U.S. Construction, still maintains the project is going to happen -- just as soon as he finds out if the Rieger is eligible for a tax break from a state program designed to help those restoring old buildings for new purposes. And as soon as he secures loans to finance the $4 million-$6 million project.
The Rieger Lofts building, formerly known as the Hotel Rieger, the Erie Inn, the Sandusky Nursing Home and the Sanduskian Hotel, has been in a decline for more than 40 years. As a piece of Sandusky's history, it would certainly be an asset to downtown if it were renovated.
Detractors of the project say the old hotel would cost too much to bring up to code and it should be leveled.
A vital, aesthetically pleasing use of the old building is much preferable to a vast empty lot. But, Spatz has not shown due diligence in bringing his lofty plans to fruition. He has little invested in the structure, therefore, little to lose. The longer he drags his feet on the project, the harder the toll on the building. Either he must move ahead quickly, investing capital to show he has faith in his vision or we cannot help but doubt the sincerity of his intentions.
Move ahead on the restoration or call in the wrecking ball. At the rate the deterioration is going, the city or Spatz won't have to tear the Rieger down. It's heading that way on its own.