By Howard Balaban
Medina Journal-Register — MEDINA - Downtown Medina has experienced a bit of a revival in recent years with the opening of several new businesses. However, given the amount of vacant space above those storefronts there are numerous possibilities for even more unique destinations.
One business — Shirt Factory Cafe — has nearly completed its upper floors, according to owner Andrew Meier. The restaurant is located on the first floor of the old Newell Building and was merely the first part of Meier's dream when he purchased the building in 2005.
The second part of it is finally coming to fruition as renovations to two furnished loft-style apartments will be completed by the end of the month. The living quarters are on the third floor.
Meier said he was unaware of Medina featuring any living quarters like the ones his building will have, but he added that does not mean there would not be.
"There is certainly a lot of extraordinary space throughout downtown," Meier said. Getting into specifics, and speaking only about what he has seen in person, he added, "There is an amazing upper floor above Main Street TV and Appliance. It's raw and dripping with potential. And Blissetts has a space that is awesome."
What could be done with the space above the business district? According to Meier, just about anything.
"Historically, the spaces have run the gamut. There have been living spaces, office spaces, gathering spaces."
"There were lots of halls; downtown was really the social center of the community and it's evident because of what you can see in the architecture and the space that's still here," he said.
To illustrate his point, Meier pointed to his business neighbor — Avanti Pizza and Grill — and said the space above it is a hall that features almost 2,500 square feet.
"That could be one of the biggest venues in the county," he noted.
Meier is one of several business owners who are Medina natives, and he said the owners in town who live locally are making a significant difference in helping to create what is quickly becoming a vibrant downtown scene.
"All the owners want their buildings to contribute to the bigger picture," he explained. Being local, he said, inspires someone to take more pride in undertaking a project to make it a "community asset."
As for the bigger picture, Meier said Medina, Albion, and the rest of Orleans County have to tools to become a destination area for many. He explained, "County-wide, if you look at a radius of a two-hour travel distance, you've got millions of people in a number of different areas. We have the assets to attract people for a day or longer.
"The more we can tap into tourism dollars, the more we can attract people to what is unique about this county, the better off we'll all be," he said.
Indeed, in Medina alone thousands of families visit every May when Thomas the Train makes his annual stop at the Medina Railroad Museum, and there is also an influx of tourists for the Polar Express event which is fast approaching. More events and more destinations throughout the county can only help.
"The money that comes in via tourism is found dollars, and it helps all of our local businesses," Meier said.