Downtown Xenia showing signs of life

The Xenia building featured in a photo that is one of four finalists vying to win a Heritage Ohio contest is among the efforts to revitalize the downtown area.

The photo — “Lofty Expectations” — which depicts a bike with loaded side baskets parked inside the Eavey Building on West Third Street, is running neck-and-neck against a photo of the bank vault inside the Goetz Tower in Middletown.

People can vote on their favorite at until Tuesday.

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The Eavey Building was built in 1908 and served as a wholesale grocery warehouse for Eavey and Co. It was purchased at auction in May 2016, said co-owner Jennifer Dunn, who is working with the city and an architectural firm to find new tenants and a new purpose for the brick building.

“The building is a blank canvas,” Dunn said. “We want to approach the project with as much transparency as possible and understand the type of uses that Xenia needs to make the project successful.”

Financing to redevelop and renovate the property is still in the works. Dunn said the major costs will be in replacing the roof, windows and HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems. She said the focuse in the first phase of the redevelopment project will be to make the building “weather-tight.”

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“Finding the right combination of tenants and uses for the building will be a challenge that needs to work financially for us, but also be viable for the long-term success of downtown Xenia,” she said.

The Eavey project has received a matching grant of $11,770 through the city’s Design Assistance Program, which enables the owners to develop concept plans, feasibility studies, and assess existing conditions, said Xenia spokesman Lee Warren.

Warren said he thinks the building could be a destination spot along the bike trail, serving as “a hub for vibrant, interactive, downtown activity with specialty shops” similar to the Second Street Market in Dayton.

“I would personally like to see the Eavey become … much like the West Side Market in Cleveland, Central Station in Memphis (with a Farmer’s Market), or the Second Street Market in Dayton,” he said.

There are other signs of life in downtown Xenia.

Devil Wind Brewing recently opened in the renovated building at 130 S. Detroit St., formerly occupied by construction/industrial supplier Fastenel.

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A string of shops have opened up along Main Street: The Coffee Hub, One Bistro Restaurant, Parker’s General Store, and Barr’s Pharmacy.

Next door, the Greene County Republican Party is among the first tenants at the former JC Penney building on Main Street, which is being renovated by downtown property owner Greg Bernitt.

Bernitt also owns the building where the Table of Contents cafe resides on Detroit Street. The upper portion of the building is currently being rehabilitated, possibly for office space or apartments.

Near Bernitt’s building on Main Street sits Xenia Shoe and Leather, the upper floors of which are slated to be converted into apartment units.

The downtown road construction is nearing completion this summer and there will be a lane of traffic dedicated to bicyclists on southbound Detroit Street.

Warren said the result should be improved “traffic safety for pedestrians, automobiles, parking, and bicyclists, all while improving the aesthetics of downtown and freeing up sidewalks for business use.”

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