WESTERHOLD: A cry of pain from a grand old lady

At first I feared a homeland security breach. The good news is it wasn't that. Rather, Market Street east of Jackson Street was clos
Matt Westerhold
May 24, 2010


At first I feared a homeland security breach. The good news is it wasn't that. Rather, Market Street east of Jackson Street was closed last week because a building on the corner was throwing off bricks from its roofline, declaring its imminent demise.

Geez, enough already. This is another of those community conversations that hasn't changed much in a decade. It's like the "Energizer Bunny" of community conversations ... it keeps going and going.

The Boy with the Boot is my favorite icon. I love the way Don Lee incorporates it into his cartoons, and it's good for a city to have a symbol. And yes, I know the Boy's original Sandusky home was up the street from the current Washington Park site where its replica now resides -- at the Hotel Rieger.

And yes, it was a grand hotel in its day.

But that day ended, oh, so long ago.

Enough already.

Greg Spatz, the latest entrepreneur to aim at re-developing the long-vacant hotel building that seems never to have been architecturally special, said he was waiting to hear back on loan and tax credit applications he's filed.

Expects the good word by summer's end, he said, so work should begin by fall.

Sure. Good luck with that.

Intentionally, or unintentionally, Spatz set a deadline: Work begins this fall.

If that doesn't happen, city officials need to regroup and start figuring out a way to end this endless conversation and begin a new one.

A building vacant for decades, by its very nature, does not hold much promise for resurrection. The fact it's not already been resurrected despite what seems like a dozen different approaches over the years also says something about the likelihood it will never be rehabilitated.

My expertise is limited to a slender skill set, and for sure, I don't know much about architecture, the building trades, or the challenges the city and any potential site developers might face.

But the part of my brain that makes me think I'm smart tells me the Rieger just isn't worth saving. The cost to rehab it, I think, would far exceed its value when completed and the long-term maintenance cost for an updated old building would be more trouble than it's worth. More expensive than the mortgage, as it were.

I'm not sure the city's ever investigated how much it would cost to bring the Rieger down, and I also don't know squat about demolition work.

Smart Matt, however, estimates the cost to raze the Rieger would top $1 million or more. Where will the city get that cash? Smart Matt's not sure, but maybe that's where the new conversation needs to begin.

The building is talking. Throwing bricks down onto Market Street is as blunt as a building can be: Tear me down before I simply disintegrate in front of your eyes.