WORTHINGTON — Last week, it was announced during a Worthington City Council meeting that the receiver of the Hotel Thompson, Lighthouse Management Group, had put the property up for auction. In the wake of this news, commercial tenants at the Thompson are concerned about the fate of the building and what it might mean for their businesses.
Jim Schissel, owner of J&C Barbershop, has been doing business in the Thompson building since 1992.
"The only thing I'm concerned about is the boiler doesn't work," he said. Over the summer, it has been fine to just leave the boiler off, but looking toward the coming fall season, Schissel is aware that the building will need heat.
"If they don't get the boiler fixed," he added, "the businesses will have to close."
Last winter, the boiler kept emitting carbon monoxide, creating potentially toxic conditions inside the building. Without heat, though, none of the proprietors will be able to operate their businesses.
Jeff Baumgarn of Worthington Printing Company agreed that the boiler is a significant problem. When the boiler initially malfunctioned in January 2019, Lighthouse Management had it fixed. When it broke down again in February, he said, "they refused to fix it."
"Somebody's going to have to ante up and get the boiler fixed," he said.
Rodolfo Gorra Ojeda, who owns R.G. Music, added that he's also worried about roof leakage.
"Everybody has problems with it," he noted. Parts of the ceiling of R.G. fell due to water damage two years ago, and no progress has been made to fix it since.
Roofing concerns affect the upstairs apartments as well, which was a major reason why the city council wanted to get involved in building repairs.
Although the city planned to pay for roof repairs, the process was halted after materials were purchased because Lighthouse entered negotiations for sale of the property.
Baumgarn has been asking for someone to fix the roof for a number of months now. He has been unable to run his business at capacity due to water leakage.
"All the years that the Williamses (Curtis and Teresa) ran it, if there was a problem, they'd take care of it in two or three days," he said.
When he asked Lighthouse to do something about the water, Baumgarn had to hound them for six weeks before it intervened.
"(The tenants) have no idea what's going on," he added. "They've told us bupkis."
Baumgarn said he's worried that whoever purchases the building might raise rent for the commercial tenants in order to finance building repairs.
"I can't afford any more rent," he said. If a new owner raises the price, "we'd all just close."
For Schissel, the possibility of closing doesn't seem daunting. He noted that he's at retirement age, so he could just transition into retirement.
For Baumgarn, though, it's not that simple.
"I'd just have to find something else to do," he noted.
Baumgarn said that for him, the solution comes down to better management — whether a private owner buys it or the city takes over the building.
"I just want to have somebody manage it who doesn't think they have to jack the rent up and who will take care of it," he said.
The auction is set to end Sep. 12. The fate of the Thompson remains to be seen until then.