At least two of the three owners who partnered to purchase the Weber Block wish to continue renovating the building.
Businessman Bill Lorenzen and his son Justin Lorenzen are two of three partners who purchased the historic building from the River East Economic Revitalization Corporation, which closed and liquidated its assets.
Justin lived in East Toledo until he was 10 years old, and understands the historic importance of the Weber Block. His family later moved to Oregon, and Justin lives in downtown Toledo now.
The partnership is in business to develop and sell commercial estate, including shopping centers, heavy industrial buildings, and warehouses.
“(The Weber Block) doesn’t really pull a profit right now, but as a kid walking through there and stuff like it is a little bit of nostalgia for us,” Justin Lorenzen said.
“We’re looking forward to remodeling it and bringing it up to speed, and in the next year or so we hope to have it fully occupied or as much as we can. We’re going to have all new windows, probably all new furnaces, and to do that is not going to be cheap.
“We really want to attack the first and second floor, and then the third floor will be the next stage,” Lorenzen continued. “We’ve been looking at getting an elevator into the building. So after we do the windows and the roof, I’m not exactly sure what the next step will be but I think the key to getting those things in the third floor will be getting the elevator so its handicapped accessible and it will be easier for people to move furniture in and out of the building,” Lorenzen continued.
“Once we get the elevator in and stuff like that, then we would be able to fully occupy that building.”
Justin said the partnership has put about $81,000 into the building so far, and he believes by next year they will invest another $150,000. Those figures remain approximations because he did not have estimates on some construction costs.
Justin, acting as spokesperson because his father was out of the country, said it remains important to him to see the historic building never razed, and he and his father have a goal to someday renovate the historic theater on the third floor.
“The basic plan right now is to restore if for what (former REERC director) Don Monroe had originally envisioned,” Lorenzen said. “So far, so good.”
Monroe said he has known Bill Lorenzen for 30 years and trusts the partnership not to raze the building. As director of River East, he said that building was always close to his heart.
“I believe that Bill will do a good job as owner of the Weber Block in the interest of the community,” Monroe said. “That’s what always motivated me. I put a lot of my life into that building, and I did a lot of the physical work.”
One business that has done well in the Weber Block is Michael’s Catering, owned and operated by Michael Armstrong.
“Mike’s got a good investment in that building,” Justin Lorenzen said. “He’s a good guy and he’s been a loyal tenant, obviously, so we’re thrilled to have him in there. He makes a lot of foot traffic into the building as well. And, the food’s phenomenal and that definitely helps.”
Armstrong said Monroe approached him about moving into the Weber Block, and his business has flourished ever since.
“In 1991, we began looking for a location to move our retail operation into. We looked at several locations, and then I came down and met with Don Monroe and walked through the Weber building and really kind of fell in love with the old building and the neighborhood and the whole thing,.” Armstrong said.
“It wasn’t really a building that was going to fit us. Don pointed out to me how by moving a couple walls and doing a little remodeling maybe we could fit, so that’s just what we did. We came into here in 1992, started renovations, finished, and moved in during 1992.
“We’ve been here since. It’s been a wonderful experience for us. I still love (the building) — the second and third floors are spectacular. We’ve always hoped that something could happen in those.”
Armstrong noted how the location served his catering business.
“For us, this location capped together with the building is perfect because for catering it’s centrally located. If you take a map of the Greater Toledo area, and put a little dot in the center and where would you want to be in a building in Toledo, you’d be right here,” Armstrong said.
“That in mind we knew the location for catering was ideal. Retail, we just like the East Side — we’ve always liked it here. In my opinion, this is downtown Toledo. We came into downtown Toledo on the opposite side of the river,” the café owner added.
Armstrong plans on remaining in the Weber Block, and he, too, believes the new owners have the intention to continue renovating the building.
“The new owners, obviously it’s a little early to pass any judgment on them, but the things I’ve seen already is they have a love of the east side, a love of the building, and if they’ve got that I don’t see any problems with us at all. It’s an ideal situation,” Armstrong said.
“Even if River East was in business, it would still make sense for them to sell a property like this to somebody who wants to take it to the next level. I think it’s just worked out real well. I’m real happy that they sold it to somebody who cares about a building on the east side.”
Other businesses, including a gift shop and copy shop, have left the building, but owners say it had nothing to do with the sale.