URBANA — The Urbana Fire Division has asked in a Facebook post for help from the community to find information about who may be setting fire to the vacant Douglas Hotel in central Urbana.
It announced that it will offer a reward of up to $5,000 dollars through the Ohio Blue Ribbon Arson Committee for information on three fires set at the abandoned hotel in the past two months.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Fire crews investigate suspicious fire in downtown Urbana
Fire officials said that they have extinguished three different fires at the hotel since Sept. 6, the latest of which occurred early Oct. 11 when a fire began at the empty building’s rear door.
The fire ended up damaging other businesses in the same structure as the hotel, including Big Willie’s Smokehouse, which suffered smoke damage and smoke from the fire pushed into the business through the floorboards.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Third suspicious fire set near Urbana's Douglas Inn
At the same time as investigators say people are intentionally setting fires in the building, community partners are working on a redevelopment plan for the Douglas Hotel that would turn it into affordable senior housing.
The project, dubbed “Legacy Place,” would convert the building, along with the former North and South Elementary Schools in Urbana, into 51 apartments, with a retail space on the first floor of the hotel.
The hotel has been vacant for 16 years, and $9 million in tax credits have already been awarded to the Legacy Place project.