Tenants in the downtown Spitzer Building no longer have around-the-clock access to their offices following a failed fire-alarm inspection.
Under an agreement worked out with Toledo fire officials, the 10-story building is only open to tenants and visitors from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays, and 7 a.m. to noon on weekends.
Patrice Spitzer, the court-appointed receiver of the landmark structure at 520 Madison Ave., said she had no choice but to limit hours of operations because money isn’t available to fix the alarm and fire-detection system or hire extra personnel to patrol the building.
The 107-year-old building, which has has been in foreclosure since January, 2011, is scheduled for auction at a June 13 sheriff’s sale at the Lucas County Courthouse for unpaid property taxes.
An April 26 fire department inspection found its fire-alarm system and emergency voice-alarm communication system to be inoperable in violation of the state fire code.
Toledo Fire Chief Luis Santiago said bringing the building to code would have required fixing the systems or hiring additional staff members to work around the clock to walk through the building as fire lookouts.
However, Mrs. Spitzer decided to scale back operating hours and have two fire-watch employees walk the building when it is open for business. The agreement with the fire department, in effect until June 13, also requires a security guard on the first floor at all times.
Mrs. Spitzer said the restricted hours plan was a reasonable compromise to keep the doors open and allow tenants to stay.
“We didn’t have money to fix the alarm system,” she said. “Since we instituted a fire watch, things are going very well. Our tenants are very comfortable with it. We are looking forward to the auction next week.”
The fire department has been concerned with the fire alarms’ condition since 2010, Toledo Fire Lt. Robert Walters said.
Koray Ergur, the owner of a private equity firm that bought the Spitzer Building in 2009, was cited in Toledo Municipal Court for failing to bring the system up to code. He pleaded guilty and was fined $2,000 in March.
Lieutenant Walters said the condition of the alarm systems worsened over the years to the point that they present a fire-safety danger to the building and its occupants.
“We have been working with them to try to keep the doors open,” he said.
The Spitzer Building Co. filed foreclosure action against Mr. Ergur’s companies on Jan. 24, 2011, a proceeding that concluded in Lucas County Common Pleas Court in January.
Jack White, who has run an accounting business out of the Spitzer Building since 1970, recently sent a letter to Chief Santiago warning that restricted hours would create hardship for his employees and clients during tax season. Mr. White said Thursday he wrote the letter on behalf of other tenants and out of concern the limited operating hours will have on next week’s auction. A law firm based at Spitzer for decades recently gave notice that it will move out to another downtown location, he said.
“I have hopes the building will survive and stay open,” he said. “But I cannot be the only tenant.”
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