Columbus Ave. Revitalization
Little details, big impact
Despite the impressive $11.5 million investment and 51,000 square feet transformed, the Columbus Ave. Revitalization project is all about the details. This transformative project was featured in our 2017 Days of Development series as a vision and over the past year and a half that vision has been constructed to unveil a new City block. The Columbus Ave. Revitalization is a project of many components – a new Sandusky City Hall, the Columbus Ave. Lofts and three storefront locations. Each component benefits from careful reconstruction of distinguishing features from the buildings 100+ year old history in Sandusky.
Project Rendering
Completed Block
Fast Facts
  • 3 buildings - the Whitworth, Kingbury, and Commerical Banking and Trust - entirely repurposed
  • 252 pages in the 2017 Secretary of the Interior's Guidelines for restoring historic buildings
  • A meaningful contribution to a dynamic neighborhood that's seen $100 million invested in the last 5 years
As one member of the redevelopment project team puts it, Chip Marous, the developer leading this project, is “obsessed with old buildings”. We couldn’t agree more that historical structures are worth honoring and have intrinsic value as reminders of a community's complexity, culture, and character. Chip’s company, Marous Brothers, started with restoring a single property in Downtown Willoughby 35 years ago. That restoration sparked a movement; and the transformation of the Willoughby business district leaves many visitors surprised to know that it was once known more for its abandoned storefronts than the charm, food, and entertainment you find now. It was during the renovation of Willoughby that Chip received an invitation to come and visit Sandusky. In his words:
“Of course, this wasn’t my first visit to Sandusky, however, it was the first time I walked the streets with an eye toward potential. I was struck by the wealth of historic buildings and immediately became excited about what a transformation – similar to what we executed in Willoughby – would do for downtown Sandusky and the people of Sandusky.

For a variety of reasons, the timing wasn’t right at the time, but we held on to the dream until we were contacted again years later. What makes this project unique – and so special – is the persistence of so many to keep the dream alive and take the bold steps necessary to make the dream a reality.”
Steps in the bold journey for the Columbus Ave. Revitalization included unique public-private partnerships and state and federal historic tax credits, which combined with Chip’s passion for old buildings, are what kept small touches and distinguishing features a part of the comprehensive restoration. Historic tax credits take commitment on behalf of the developer. A property must be certified as contributing to the significance of a registered historic district and its rehabilitation must be substantial leading to significant increases in tax valuation. Most importantly, rehabilitation must be done in accordance with a set of standards that focus on preservation of historic character, things like restoring or maintaining the original architectural layout, distinctive features, finishes, or examples of craftsmanship and construction techniques through the ages. Members of the City of Sandusky’s development team shared their own favorite features of the new building:
E. Wobser - Wood paneling and historic fireplace in the 4th floor conference room
M. Lasko - Intricate ceilings in the future home of Vita Urbana
J. Storey - Historic directory in the beautiful lobby of the Columbus Lofts
Attention to detail is something many can appreciate. The Columbus Ave. Revitalization project has already found much success. City Hall and staff have successfully relocated and City Manager, Eric Wobser says their team is "appreciating the dual benefits of the City's presence stimulating economic activity for the neighborhood, but also, how the amenities are allowing them to attract and retain talent who appreciate the quality of life and cool spaces of a dynamic downtown". Its 18 apartments are majority occupied just a few months after opening. A professional services firm and Vita Urbana, an upscale market and wine bar, are set to open in the retail storefronts early in 2020. With little details, big amenities, and a one-of-a-kind setting on the beautiful shores of the Sandusky Bay, Chip says, “It’s our first project of what we hope to be many in downtown Sandusky”. The company has already fulfilled this commitment in acquiring the Feick building on Market St. (in plans for redesign) and participating in the BGSU Resort and Attraction Management building project as construction manager and operator. We know there’s more to look forward to in thoughtful construction, quality products, and concrete examples of a community growing in confidence and economic prosperity.  
Did You Know?
The importance of retail and service industries, often located in a downtown district, can sometimes be overlooked in traditional economic development strategies which tend to favor industries that produce goods and export outside the region. However, Erie County's vibrant retail and service industries can't be ignored. The industry employs close to 11,000 people and contribute nearly 40% of our Gross Regional Product, with much of this coming from visitors who bring their wealth and spend in our community. More importantly, these industries contribute an opportunity for entrepreneurs, culture and neighborhood vibrancy and valuable work experience for youth and others developing skills and their career. Our office promotes this idea through programming and marketing efforts like this campaign. Contact us with your own ideas.
Stay Tuned for Day 10: CertainTeed Corporation
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The 12 Days of Development email series recognizes and celebrates another year of progress in Erie County, Ohio. Throughout the weeks of December, you will receive email spotlights on a company investing, improving and innovating in our community. We can't capture it all, so let us know a neighbor we missed or what activities you've got planned to make the 2020 list! #ErieCounty12Days