PIQUA — Community and business leaders are getting involved in making the Downtown Riverfront Redevelopment Project and other downtown rejuvenation projects happen, establishing the Imagining and Investing in Piqua (iPiqua) Fund. This fund was developed to expand economic opportunities for residents and spur new business investment.
“The thought is that projects of that nature, some of which may be similar to the Fort Piqua Plaza, take exotic forms of financing,” Brett Baumeister, president of Unity National Bank and iPiqua Fund board president, said. “The costs to renovate or rehabilitate a historical building are very high compared to a traditional new build.”
The iPiqua Fund is a gap financing tool meant to facilitate the development and delivery of affordable, residential, commercial, and community real estate projects and supportive services in and to the city through investment in such projects.
“I am excited by the positive activity in Piqua, centered around downtown and the riverfront,” Doug Haines, president of Buckeye Insurance in Piqua, said in a press release. “The iPiqua Fund will encourage additional housing and business development.”
Local leaders behind the iPiqua Fund are looking to lessen the burdens of government and combat community deterioration through supporting and assisting with the redevelopment of abandoned and vacant buildings, properties, and brown field sites that drain local government resources.
“The intention is to provide another funding source for these types of projects that are traditionally are un-bankable,” Baumeister said. “Banks don’t typically like to finance these types of projects.”
In addition to contributing city projects, the iPiqua fund will be available to make loans to improve Piqua in other types of un-bankable situations as well, Baumeister said. The iPiqua Fund can be used to help a downtown merchant or any type of redevelopment in the downtown or surrounding area to help expedite Piqua’s rejuvenation with targeted investments.
The projects that the iPiqua Fund will contribute to will focus on growth and redevelopment opportunities that:
- Promote the redevelopment and reuse of vacant or underutilized industrial, institutional, and manufacturing buildings and real estate to retain and attract businesses, jobs, services, and economic opportunities for Piqua residents
- Enhance the downtown area, major entryways, and public or private places of interest within the community to preserve and enrich Piqua’s small town character and sense of community pride
- Encourage downtown building renovations and infill development that provide quality retail, office, dining, entertainment, and lodging opportunities for residents and visitors
- Renovate vacant downtown building spaces and existing structures in surrounding neighborhoods to offer a diverse mix of living unit types and price ranges that excite the repopulation of the downtown core
The planning for this fund took approximately a year before it was able to come to fruition. Community leaders like Baumeister have seen a need for it for around a decade.
“Many communities have such a fund,” Baumeister said. “The state, through their Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) fund, used to provide grant funds to communities like that they could loan out.” Baumeister explained that the community used to be able to retain that money, but now it goes back to the state.
“Our agenda for the fundraising is we’re going to initially start with the banks,” Baumeister said. The local banks will benefit from the success of their community, according to Baumeister.
“The intention as well is to engage some local individuals and private business owners, philanthropists,” Baumeister said. The iPiqua Fund has already seen one such individual write them a check already.
“The better Piqua is and the better amenities it has, the easier it is for those businesses to attract a labor force,” Baumeister said.
For the popular Downtown Riverfront Redevelopment Strategy, the sub-goals to redevelop and renovate the downtown include:
- Create an inviting public realm
- Provide community spaces that support entertainment and tourism
- Expand opportunities for downtown living
- Increase access and connectivity from downtown to the river
- Upgrade the physical environment to reflect the standards of the surrounding area
- Create development-ready parcels through environmental remediation
One of the ideas behind the Downtown Riverfront Redevelopment Strategy is to attract the younger generation and future labor force.
“I think we’re seeing the younger generations wanting more of the downtown,” Baumeister said. “They don’t care so much about getting in a car and driving… the younger generation, the future labor force, they’re gravitating toward the bigger cities.”
Baumeister explained that there are currently discussions going on about developer converting the Zollinger’s building to apartment town homes. A sale may occur in the middle of next year, but in the meantime, the city has been acquiring properties along the riverfront. They are in the process of creating vacant land for redevelopment, such as with the recent demolition at 117 Water St., along with taking part in discussions to have businesses come fill the buildings that remain.
“All of those amenities that the younger generation are looking for – we do need to have the attractions to cause folks to live and work in Piqua,” Baumeister said.
Contributions to the iPiqua Fund come solely from private sector businesses and individuals. To learn how you can participate, please contact Brett Baumeister at (937) 615-1022.
Sam Wildow contributed to this article and can be reached at [email protected]