As Ed and Jen Torres were planning construction of their new home on East Market Street in downtown Sandusky, they checked out the neighborhood and envisioned what it might look like in the future.
Across the street from their home is a large yellow building that once housed Buckeye Cable and still has active office space.
With 1.25 acres of land facing Shoreline Park and Sandusky Bay, Ed looked at the property and immediately began picturing the possibilities of how it could be developed to fit into Sandusky's growing downtown.
“I'm always looking for a new project,” Ed said. “It was for sale, and it was right in front of us. I said to Jen, 'Why not this one?'”
The couple own Amerihome, a construction company that renovates rental homes in the area, and Ed has a long history of work in the construction field. They decided to buy the property and begin making plans for adding a winery and restaurant on the lower floor and Airbnb rooms in the upper part of the building, as well as a second phase of construction for rental cabins.
They bought the property last fall for $977,100, according to the Erie County Auditor's Office, and plan to put $1 - 3 million in two phases of work on the building and property, Jen said.
“We're super excited about this area with all the development and the new homes being built,” Ed said. “People are so nice down here, so welcoming.”
Jen and Ed Torres live across the street from their new project. (Photo/The Helm)
Some components of downtown Sandusky's revitalization are the new housing development on East Market Street, Everwild Spirits bourbon distillery, the Sandusky Bay Pathway bike path and BGSU Firelands' new building.
The couple is focused on bringing in a winery because there is not one in downtown Sandusky. The area has a history with Lake Erie wines, and historically, there were several wineries in town.
“It's our missing piece,” Jen said. “We're looking for that perfect fit for our city.”
The couple's plan is to find a winery and restaurant, which could be owned by one company or separate businesses, and customize the building for those businesses. They would add the Airbnb rooms upstairs, which could be rented for short or long terms.
The Torres would be the landlords and oversee the property. Living just across the street, they would be in a convenient place to do that.
Current tenant James Ruthsatz CPA is planning to keep his office in the building for at least the next five years, the Torres said.
For the winery and restaurant, the Torres are waiting to reach out in earnest to potential businesses because Ed and his team have been busy starting the renovation of the 2,600-square-foot building.
“We want to open up the space first,” Ed said. “So then they will have a decent visual of what the space is. Then we'll start reaching out to potential tenants and have them stop by and see what they think.”
The building includes large, open spaces with 27-foot ceilings in some areas that would allow for wine-fermenting tanks. The Torres would love to have a viewing area behind glass where patrons can see how the wine is made.
“We love that look,” Jen said. “Every time you go to a winery or a brewery that has the tanks open to view, we love that setup. That's ideal.”
They would also like to see a wine garden with live music. Adding the rental rooms and eventually cabins that would tie in with the look of the main building would allow people to stay in the area, walk to downtown businesses and be near popular attractions, including the Cedar Point and the Lake Erie Islands, Ed said.
“If they're a wine enthusiast, they want the whole experience of eating, drinking and staying,” Jen said. “We want it to the destination or one of the stops while they're visiting.”
They plan to design the upstairs rental units so that renters could open them up and connect them if they have a larger group traveling together.
“I think that (short-term rentals) are becoming more of the way people are vacationing,” said Jen, who has a degree in interior design and plans to decorate the rooms. “Each room is going to have a different theme or different feeling. I'm going to try to get creative. It's not going to look like a hotel.”
Like their decision to build their new home downtown, the Torres want this project to be part of downtown's continued growth.
“The city is very accepting of new businesses in this area,” Ed said. “All of this brings more people into the area.”