REGISTER VIEWPOINT: City did right by Rieger

It's been a story of ups and downs, mainly downs, and is considered by many to be emblematic of the city's progress, or lack thereof
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010


It's been a story of ups and downs, mainly downs, and is considered by many to be emblematic of the city's progress, or lack thereof.

And while the latest news about the Rieger apartments project is cautiously optimistic -- developer Greg Spatz wants to seek historic preservation funds -- the Sandusky City Commission's vote last week to deny a $200,000 loan from the Revolving Loan Fund for the project represents prudence on the city's part.

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Indeed, the city has acted with prudence throughout the project, ever since it bought the building from the previous owners and turned it over to the developers, with an agreement that held back on payments from the city to the developer unless signs of progress were seen. Not standing in the way, but not leaving the city open to undue risk, either.

Other money for the project hinges on Spatz being able to find funding; for example, the local Dorn Foundation charitable fund, which pulled a $200,000 promise off the table last week but is still interested if Spatz can secure money from the National Trust For Historic Preservation, which the developer told us last week is "very likely."

We hope something happens. Quite apart from its historic value, the old Rieger Hotel at Market and Jackson streets is home mainly to stray cats and sea gulls, and does no credit to a downtown trying to find ways to revive itself.

Spatz wants to turn it into a 41-unit apartment building with retail, restaurants and a coin laundry on the ground floor, and he's been described elsewhere as a "master" at rebuilding shambling old piles into new life.

The Rieger's story does little to bolster that reputation; city officials have grown frustrated at the lack of progress.

We hope Spatz finds the funding and we hope the Reiger becomes something again, if only to remove the curse that exists in the minds of many as far as downtown's chances.

But the city commission was right to vote no last week. One might argue -- and we have -- the city should gamble on the future when it sees a good chance, but some gambles are better than others.

If other, non-taxpayer-funded sources are willing to put up money and the project works, great. Everyone wins. If the project becomes a better bet, the commissioners might want to revisit things. But right now, the Rieger's too much of a gamble for taxpayer money.