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Published: Saturday, 10/20/2012

Wanted: new owner

Toledo's past and present are expressed in once-proud downtown buildings that have been razed or left to decay. Reversing that trend can promote a brighter future, beginning with one of the city’s first skyscrapers.

The 17-story Nicholas Building has a proud past. Built in 1906 and updated in 1954, it once was, at 192 feet, Ohio’s tallest structure. It rests on 1,200 oak logs driven into swampy ground for support.

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It is one of nine buildings that made up Toledo’s historic “financial canyon” at the beginning of the 20th century. The National Register of Historic Places recognized these structures in 1998.

Owens-Illinois, Owens Corning, Libbey-Owens-Ford, and Fifth Third Bank all called the Nicholas Building home at one time. It once housed 5,000 workers and welcomed 10,000 visitors a day.

The building was the site of an early, and perhaps the first, radio broadcast. Lee DeForrest, inventor of the audion — the first vacuum tube capable of amplifying radio signals — installed a transmitter in the Nicholas Building and a receiver in what is now the Ohio Building, and succeeded in transmitting the sound of a voice from one place to the other.

The 2011 Toledo Downtown Plan identifies the building as one of the focal points of future development. Richard Meyers, a landscape architect who helped develop the plan, said preservation of historic structures is crucial.

“We’ve lost far too many buildings already in the downtown,” he said.

But instead of being developed, the Nicholas Building has been irresponsibly left to rot. Koray Ergur, a San Francisco-based real estate developer, bought the historic structure in January, 2009, at the bargain price of $313,600. Within five months, the electricity had been turned off for nonpayment, tenants were scurrying to find new homes, and Mr. Ergur was looking to unload the building.

Three years later, the developer’s company owes Lucas County $300,619 in unpaid property taxes, and the building is in receivership. Mr. Ergur also owes $130,579 in unpaid taxes on the next-door Spitzer Building, which he bought in April, 2009, for $800,000.

This page warned three years ago that if the Nicholas Building was allowed to remain empty, time and the elements would take a toll on the structure. The building has been neglected ever since.

It is not too late to return this downtown landmark to its former glory. It sits at a prime location in the heart of Toledo’s resurgent downtown. It is next to Huntington Center and within easy walking distance of Fifth Third Field, the soon-to-be-renovated Promenade Park, and downtown restaurants and bars.

The Nicholas Building is in foreclosure, and its court-appointed receiver has asked Lucas County Common Pleas Court to order a quick sale. Buyers are interested in renovating it and the Spitzer Building.

All that’s needed is for the courts to facilitate Mr. Ergur’s overdue departure from the Toledo real estate market.



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