BY MIKE McCARTHY | MIRROR EDITOR — The city of Maumee’s ambitious plan to transform the uptown area into an attractive destination site has garnered its first major victory. Maumee City Council held a special meeting on May 31 to unanimously approve the signing of a 15-year lease for a new upscale eatery to be located at 422 Conant St., in the building formerly owned and occupied by Citizens Bank.
The new restaurant’s owners are no strangers to the restaurant business or uptown Maumee. Shawn and Megan McClellan already own and operate the popular Levi & Lilac’s Whiskey Room at 301 River Rd. on the corner of East Wayne Street in Maumee, and the couple recently celebrated the third anniversary of their business.
Levi & Lilac’s will continue operation at its current location. The new restaurant will be a completely different enterprise with its own dining theme, drink offerings and service (see related story).
Under the terms of the lease, the city of Maumee will pay for the exterior refurbishing of the building, which the city owns. The McClellans will be responsible for all interior upgrades, tailoring the kitchen, bar and dining room areas to their specific needs. The McClellans will have an option to purchase the property outright, if they desire, at any time during the course of the 15-year lease.
When Citizens Bank moved its branch office from uptown Maumee last fall, the city purchased the building for $325,000 with the intent of improving it and then selling or leasing it to a retail business or restaurant as part of the city’s uptown Maumee redevelopment vision.
At its December 20 meeting, Maumee City Council authorized city administrator Patrick Burtch to facilitate exterior renovation work on the structure in an amount not to exceed $361,400 in order to help get the project rolling.
As part of the deal, the city will retain total control of the adjacent parking lot, incorporating the bank’s former parking spaces into a larger city parking lot to be shared between the new business in the evening and the Maumee Municipal Building during the daytime.
At the May 31 council meeting, Maumee Law Director Alan Lehenbauer stated that the building will come with some restrictions, whether it remains leased or even if it is sold to the McClellans or some other future owner.
Maumee Mayor Richard Carr stated that it is his understanding that the deed restriction will prohibit the building from ever becoming a bar. “It’s not going to become solely a bar,” he said. “It will be a restaurant that serves alcoholic beverages.”
Lehenbauer added, “Among the other restrictions are that the city can control the use of the building in the future to some extent with the deed restrictions, so that there can’t be use made of the building that might interfere with the daytime use of the Maumee Municipal Building.
“We don’t want an operation such as a breakfast restaurant where everybody is parked in the lot in the morning and we can’t get into the building ourselves, so we added some deed restrictions” he said.
Burtch said that if the McClellans are interested in purchasing the building, “the incentive here is that it’s probably cheaper for them to buy it sooner rather than later,’’ considering all the improvements that will be made to the building’s exterior by the city, combined with those made to the interior by the McClellans themselves.
“We’re also only leasing or selling the footprint of the building plus 21 feet to the rear for the patio that we will construct on the exterior portion of the building,” said Burtch.
The parking lot will remain under the city’s control under any scenario.
Council member Philip Leinbach asked if the building would be available for sale at the fair market value. His concern was that someone might get the wrong impression and say, “Wow, you gave them a great deal!”
“Well, once the improvements are done, I think your market rates are going to be higher than this,” Burtch explained, “but remember, we purchased it at below-market rate. We paid $325,000 for a building that we could have sold for $700,000 the next day.
“Even if this weren’t exactly market rate, you pay a little to get the use you want as long as you don’t lose money, because we’re not in it to make money on selling properties,” Burtch stressed. “We’re providing for the best and highest use of the property, so from that perspective, we’ve done a good job in making sure this is what we get.”
Council member Gabe Barrow voiced his approval of the deal, saying, “It’s very important to be able to have an investor who can put in the type of money and effort it takes to help put their business in good order.”
Mayor Carr added, “What’s exciting about this is that it’s the first step in what we anticipated for rejuvenating the uptown – a place where people would want to come to in the evening.”
In the meantime, the McClellans are busy making plans for their new venture and are hoping to open the new restaurant on February 1, 2023.