A building that many Hamilton residents have driven past thousands of times became splinters and rubble this week.
A demolition crew took down the former Greg Wolpert Nationwide Insurance agency building at a corner of Main Street and Millville Avenue.
“I’m going to miss that place, oh, my gosh, yes,” said Greg Wolpert, who owned the building.
“I had that place completely remodeled. The Medicine Shoppe used to be on one side of the building, and I made that my man cave,” he said, adding with a laugh, “And it was decorated probably better than my home.”
His insurance agency was in the building 31 years before he retired Dec. 31. He’s 65.
“They’re changing the intersection there,” Wolpert said. “They’re just squaring it off,” to make the streets align at 90-degree angles, rather than the sharp angles there now.
The crossroads of Main Street, Millville Avenue and Eaton Avenue is a high-crash area, which from 2008-2010 had 50 wrecks, ranking it among among Ohio’s “Top 100 Non-Freeway Fatal and Serious Injury Locations” at the time.
Because it is a high-crash location, the Ohio Department of Transportation is paying for 90 percent of the estimated $3.2 million cost. Construction is expected to take 18 months. The project also should improve traffic flow.
“The way I look at it, you can’t stop eminent domain,” Wolpert said. “It’s sad, but you’ve just got to take the punches.”
“I loved the building, and loved the location,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, that was the best location in the city. But I do understand the traffic problems there. Sometimes I even hated going from Millville Avenue to Eaton Avenue.”
The city paid him $208,050 for the property, which changed hands in September, plus about $13,000 in relocation costs.
After the demolitions, construction should start this week, said city Engineer Rich Engle. The project should take 15 to 18 months.
Wolpert took the opportunity to enter retirement, although he said he misses dealing with the public and may return to the field, working for someone else. He also plans to travel.
Wolpert actually worked in the building during his 20s, before the 31-year stint as an insurer.
Later, when Howard Weber had his realty company there, Wolpert remembered enjoying the location and asked Weber if he could lease a small office in the front. As Wolpert’s business grew, he expanded into other parts of the building. When Weber retired, “I took over the whole building,” he said.
“My agency was growing even when I retired, and that’s rare,” Wolpert said.
His former operations were taken over by Joe Conrad’s Nationwide office, at 3763 Hamilton-Cleves Road.