Y he bought it
Nathaniel Licht was one of the of many children who laced up their Doc Martins, Adidas or Nikes for a few hours after school or on the weekends. Now, as he remembers those days, he sees a future of heels and dress shoes gliding across a dance floor in a converted ballroom to host weddings, music and special events.
Licht bought the building this week with lofty intentions to have a mixed commercial and retail space occupying the first floor right around the time when summer turns to fall. Licht is excited about the possibilities.
The more than a century old building has stood vacant for six years. Licht had been interested for awhile and when the price was right he nabbed the building. Now a few days in, he is going to start by turning the water on and see what leaks. "I'm sure we'll find some, but hopefully not many," he said as he is ready for the quick repairs and moving on to the next step.
Licht has been around renovations since he was a kid when his mother one day decided to take a hammer to a wall in order to start a project in their home. He even has an uncle who purchased a former YMCA building in Alton, Illinois. "To a lot of other people [this] seems like a lot of work - to me it's just another day at the office," he said.
To achieve that, he needs to get a picture of exactly how it to look.
"I'm looking for photos, especially of the common [first floor] area," he said as he showed some of the buried features covered up from years of paneling and drop ceiling "improvements" to the building.
His goal is preservation, not goldmine.
He said he hopes to break even, but knows its going to cost him some money to save this piece of history. But he has a passion for keeping the building as a thriving part of Titusville. "I think if you lose buildings, you lose history," he said.
So on August 29th, a slew of volunteers are expected to ascend on the old building to begin ripping up old carpet, tearing down boards over windows to let light flow in again, washing windows and scraping paint. He also wants to really spruce up the grounds outside the building, pull up weeds and sweep sidewalks. "There is a long list of chores for any skill set," he said.
Volunteers are welcome to come anytime that day after noon and should bring with their own masks and gloves.
As a thank you, Licht will provide dinner and a parting gift. "I'm sending them all home with a trophy," he said with a laugh as he looked over at dozens of old YMCA trophies that have been left behind.
"It'll probably be the best birthday party ever," he said.
First floor is his immediate priority. He's like to get tenants in that space as soon as possible. He is hoping for niche shops or "stores that can work as an attraction to Titusville." And he wants to offer office or studio spaces as well and expects to be able to have an apartment or two eventually on the second floor.
The gym will be after that will be revitalized as a ballroom and concert space, but he doesn't expect that to be ready for a couple years. He will work his way through the building as time and money allows. The old two lane swimming pool he isn't sure what wants to do with yet. "I'm looking for ideas," he said, though his self-diagnosed "car problem" has him wonder if it might make a good space to park some classic cars.
The top floor will be a last priority but he hopes eventually to make it into a working part of the building down the road.
The building will be renamed the Parkside but will have many reminders of its rich YMCA history.
"You've started something magnificent, labor intensive, and worth the struggle that lies inside those walls. I have no doubt this will be one of your greatest achievements. You are a natural visionary," one Facebook response read.
This story was updated at 4:45 p.m. August 21.