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Published: Thursday, 5/9/2013

Fate of ‘Blue House’ in limbo

Talks to renovate home in historic Vistula District collapse

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The 'Blue House' at 1019 North Summit St. is adjacent to Aurora House in Toledo's Vistula Historic District, a neighborhood in the National Register of Historic Places. The 'Blue House' at 1019 North Summit St. is adjacent to Aurora House in Toledo's Vistula Historic District, a neighborhood in the National Register of Historic Places.
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The fate of a large, historic home in Toledo’s north end that’s owned by the nonprofit Aurora House is in limbo again.

The so-called “Blue House” is a 5,000-square-foot, cross-gable Dutch colonial home built in 1900 that sits adjacent to the Aurora House, an organization that serves homeless women and their children.

Both structures are in the Vistula Historic District, on Superior Street near Elm Street.

The Aurora House previously announced plans to raze the three-story Blue House as part of its master plan for the neighborhood. Preservationists objected, citing the Blue House’s historical significance and architecture.

United North, a community development corporation which serves that district, thought it had reached a deal with Aurora to renovate the property more than a year ago, staving off plans to demolish it.

But on April 18, United North’s board of directors — frustrated by the lack of progress — said it was time to cease negotiations.

“Quite frankly, we’re back to almost square one,” said Terry Glazer, United North executive director.

Aurora House would not say if it will attempt to proceed with demolition or seek another potential buyer.

The group’s executive director, Denise Fox, said Aurora House “is not able to comment on any future plans” until its board meets to consider United North’s decision, according to a statement read by the group’s attorney, Lane Williamson. The attorney also said Ms. Fox was not aware the talks had reached an impasse.

Mr. Glazer said the biggest obstacle continues to be Aurora House’s refusal to sell or transfer the Blue House property deed to United North. That hampers United North’s chances of obtaining grants to do renovation work, he said.

Richard Martinez, a nearby resident who led the former Vistula Historic District Commission, said he believes Aurora House is trying to circumvent rules for historic structures that require renovation efforts to be exhausted before demolition.

“Demolition by neglect is what we call this,” Mr. Martinez said.

The phrase refers to properties in which owners intentionally put off repairs to make demolition inevitable.

Mr. Martinez and his partner, Judy Cattran, who represents the Vistula district on the city’s historic commission, accused Aurora House of dragging out the negotiations by adding more stipulations as the months passed. Aurora House did not respond to those allegations.

“The house is part of the historic fabric of this street and of this neighborhood and this city,” Mr. Martinez said.

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com or 419-724-6079.



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