Bethany J. Royer
PIQUA — A well-known structure in the city will be coming down at a yet-to-be announced date — 117 E. Water St. — the three-story Second Empire architecture (nicknamed the land-lock for this story) to the west of Lock Nine Park. This comes after city commission adopted a resolution to purchase the property from Joe Drapp earlier this month as part of the Downtown Riverfront Redevelopment Project.
“I’ve lots of sweat equity in here,” said Drapp, who estimates anywhere from 400 to 500 man-hours put into the property, from salvaging wood to pulling nails, removing trash, plaster and lathe, the purchase of all new windows awaiting installation and more.
The labor of love began in 2005 after Drapp purchased the building, sight unseen, and alleviated the city from what had been a problem property — one that included a fire forcing a tenant to escape through a window, a death from a drug overdose, and even trash thrown by tenants out the windows onto the neighboring business’ property. Its future and potential a two-fold plan to either remodel the structure for first floor retail space, second floor office space and the top floor a condo apartment complete with skylight.
Or, as explained by Drapp, “I did a lot of work believing someone with deep pockets would come along and recognize, ‘Oh, this is a really cool building.’”
Cool, indeed, as the building, estimated to have been built sometime in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, may offer one of the best views in Piqua from the second and third floor windows that offer views north, south, east and west. Though its lone position on Water Street with no surrounding, similar structures and its land-lock feature (there is no attached yardage or even a driveway) has posed its own challenges and part of the reasons for its eventual demolition.
Back in the day or in its prime, “This would have been the location,” said Drapp, adding that it was a shame the building was allowed to deteriorate as it did before his purchase, while sharing his vision upon first entering the location. Looking beyond the immense trash left behind in what had been at the time four apartments and three sleeping units, including five bathrooms and five kitchens that had to be gutted. It was only the beginning of a lot of work for a typically one-man crew.
Stripped down to near-skeletal remains of beams and original brick, everything related to walls taken down that wasn’t for support, Drapp has had his work cut out for him. Homework included tours of the Piqua Hotel’s transformation as he recognized what was being done there was needed at the land-lock, too.
In the end, however, it proved to be a project far too large and certainly not cheap, but the opening left behind in its eventual demise will allow the city to take advantage of one its greatest assets, the Great Miami River.
“I’m really proud on how the place looks now,” said Drapp, who lingered near the skylight on the third floor with a look of some decisions not always coming easy. “It had a lot of possibilities.”
Drapp also owned the 111 S. Main St. location — Moe’s — also purchased by the city at the recent commission meeting. However, it has re-development potential as part of the transformation of the 26-acre Riverfront Mill District, according to Gary Huff, city manager. Its future may include the first floor providing a kayak/bike/canoe rental with the upper floor a possible deli/restaurant. The land-lock will be scheduled for demolition after EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) remediation.
Bethany J. Royer may be reached at (937) 773-2721 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall