Renovating for retail

A former industrial building along the Central Avenue corridor — once used by both Cosco and Cummins — is in the midst of a complete renovation that its owners envision will attract retail tenants including restaurants.

John and Andrew Counceller, of Orinoco Properties Inc., are working to create 13 new retail spaces at 1503 Cottage Ave.

Orinoco Properties, which owns and manages commercial, industrial, residential and storage facilities, is investing nearly $1.5 million to renovate the building — including work to the second floor and establishing a new parking lot.

The property is surrounded by other buildings owned by Orinoco that have been converted to retail — such as restaurants, grocery stores, a dog grooming business, a recording studio and a bookstore.

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Once the new project at 1503 Cottage Ave. has undergone façade work on its eastern edge, the duo hope to have a large anchor tenant and new restaurants at the location, which the company has owned for about 10 years.

When the recession hit, the building mostly sat vacant. But when developers started showing interest, it was a sign that rehabbing the old structure would be a good business move, John Counceller said.

“The economy is good enough now,” he said. “The whole rest of this complex is full and it just seemed like the appropriate thing to do.”

With little interest from prospective tenants to rent the entire building, John Counceller decided he would renovate it and minimize costs of the rehab by reusing materials from the demolition for its new façade.

“It took me a long time to realize that the building is worth more if you tear part of it down,” he said. “You have to make it convenient. And to do that, you bring it to current retail standards — and it’s very rent-able.”

Each retail space will be at least 20 feet wide by 90 to 140 feet deep, he said. A glass front will be installed at the front of each retail space.

John Counceller said hesees great potential for the location.

“Central Avenue is Main Street Columbus. It’s a very desirable area,” he said. “17th Street and Central Avenue is really, geographically, the center of Columbus.”

Rehabilitation project

Demolition of the eastern part of the old building facing Central Avenue started in August, when work on building a new façade began.

A crew of four full-time employees has been doing the renovation work, the owners said. That crew is currently working to grind off about 6 inches of the building’s old foundation to allow for more parking spots on the east side of the property.

“All of the façade is remade from the material we pulled out of the building,” Andrew Counceller said.

The new frontage will then be covered with a harder material to allow for hanging of company signs.

Glass will be added to the façade, scheduled to be completed by summer, he said. The interior portion of the remodel will be done on a case-by-case basis based on needs of tenants, Andrew Counceller said.

The Councellers said they have gained experience with each rehabilitation project they have taken on — this being their fourth.

“What we’ve done is taken old industrial pieces of property and rehabbed them into commercial centers,” Andrew Counceller said.

John Counceller got into managing properties about 35 years ago when he needed storage for his used-equipment business, Counceller Machinery, he said.

The father-and-son team owns buildings across the street to the east, across the street to the north and the old Lincoln-Orinoco Furniture Co. building on 17th Street. None of these structures were originally built for retail purposes.

The Councellers announced plans to renovate the 60,000-square-foot former furniture building on 17th Street into 45 apartments that rent for $600 to $800 a month. Work will begin on that project later this year.

They also work together at First Metal and Plastic Technologies, 3805 Jonesville Road. The company specializes in low-volume production, customized tool making and diversity of processes, from stamping and machining to metal insert molding, welding and laser cutting.

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Orinoco Properties Inc. is owned by the father-and-son team of John and Andrew Counceller. The two specialize in rehabilitating old buildings into commercial, industrial, residential and storage space.

The currently own properties along Central Avenue and 17th Street.

The business office is located at 1720 17th St. in Columbus.