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The 120-year-old vacant building near downtown Toledo that partially collapsed Monday is in legal limbo since the owner died earlier this year but a will has not been filed with probate court.
The rear of the two-story, brick structure at 20 Broadway near Ottawa Street collapsed into Swan Creek about 7:40 a.m.
No one was injured, and police and firefighters closed the street to traffic, said Toledo fire Lt. Matt Hertzfeld.
A passer-by noticed bricks falling from the building into Swan Creek and alerted authorities. Fire officials later said a water leak during the winter may have affected the structural integrity of the building.
Lucas County records show Virginia A. Clarke owned the building since the early 1980s. A county transfer card appears to indicate she purchased the building in November, 1981.
Ms. Clarke of Oregon, a graphic designer and artist, died in January at the age of 65. She was a founder of Design at Work Inc. and became the company’s president. She oversaw a staff of about a dozen and operated from the 19th-century building in Toledo’s Warehouse District.
Design at Work came up with signs at Toledo Express Airport and for exhibits at the Toledo Museum of Art. Ms. Clarke designed the brightly colored “Toledo Welcomes You!” signs of the mid 1990s that depicted several modes of transport against a rising sun. The signs could be found on major thoroughfares in the city.
Other companies listed to have operated in the building include Filmwerks Studio and Mark Packo Inc., both of which dealt with commercial photography.
Ms. Clarke had no immediate family members when she died, but the mortuary that handled her arrangements, Freck Funeral Chapel in Oregon, listed Mark Packo as her life partner. Mr. Packo was ill and could not be reached for comment.
Ms. Clarke’s attorney, John Garand, said no estate exists for the building.
“At this point no estate has been filed,” Mr. Garand said. “I am not certain where we are going to be with this. Technically, it’s in Virginia Clarke’s name, and unless and until there has been an estate probated, it would remain in her name. It’s up in the air right now.”
Toledo Inspection Director Chris Zervos said a private contractor would raze the building and remove the debris from Swan Creek.
“The roof had deteriorated and water had gotten in, and that caused the back wall to sustain water damage,” he said. “The city’s equipment was not large enough to remove the material from Swan Creek.”
Mr. Zervos said the city will have a lien on property for demolition and cleanup costs once the estate is settled.
Toledo officials said the building has been vacant for about a year.