Delaware’s Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) held an informal review on Oct. 27 to consider renovations to the building located at 22 S. Sandusky St. Genti Koci, the owner of Opa Grill and Tavern, is proposing to use the three-story building for multiple purposes, including a restaurant, whiskey lounge and loft apartments.
The 30-by-100-foot building was constructed by Thomas Evans in 1868, according to city documents. Through the years, the building underwent some modifications and changed ownership several times. Most recently, it was occupied by Rabbit Quick Inc. printing company but was purchased as a vacant building by Koci in 2o16.
Koci intends to remove the existing blue awning and redesign the storefront while restoring each of the existing windows. The restaurant would occupy the first floor, with the whiskey lounge on the second floor and the apartments on the third floor.
Koci said he hopes the building can become the “magnificent hall of south Delaware,” referring to a remark he said was once made in The Gazette that referred to the building in a similar manner.
The consensus from the commission was that Koci’s proposal fits well with HPC standards, making for a brief review and much excitement from the commissioners about the project moving forward.
“The rendering presented brings in elements that reflect the architectural standards, such as transom windows, storefront inset panel window base and columns, and entry doors that are wood and not more than 75% glass in area … The proposed storefront appears to blend well with the age of the building and the remaining Italianate architectural elements. The proposal would not detract from the historic value of the historic district,” city documents for the project stated.
Asked if he has a timeframe for work to begin on the building, Koci said he hopes to begin “as soon as possible” while noting the steps that still need to be taken before getting final approval from Delaware City Council. Koci originally intended to begin the renovation process two years ago, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced him to delay the project.
Responding to a question about the future of the existing Opa Grill and Tavern, Koci said he isn’t sure what he will do with it in light of this project. Koci pointed out that he does not own the building that currently houses his restaurant, and he still has five years remaining on the lease. “I’m not at a place, position, or timeframe to think about it, but I will probably keep it,” he said.
“I just wanted to say I can’t think of a better marriage between the guidance and a really nice design, so thank you for your work,” one commissioner told Koci during the review. “I think you’ve done a really nice job, and I really think it’s going to highlight that block. I’m excited as well to see what you do conceptually with it.”
Koci will need to come back before HPC for a formal review of the proposal and, if approved, will receive a Certificate of Appropriateness from the commission.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.