Toledo City Council Tuesday unanimously approved the funding plan to raze the Clarion Hotel, hours after bids to tear down the blighted building fell well below original estimates.
Councilman Matt Cherry, whose district includes the former hotel, said it is one of several vacant structures in the Southwyck area that need to be razed.
“There are a lot of broken windows and fire can spread very quickly,” Mr. Cherry said. “It can’t come down fast enough.”
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Previous estimates for removal of the building at 2340 South Reynolds Road neared $850,000, but the Homrich company of Carleton, Mich., one of four companies invited to bid on the demolition, had the lowest bid of $434,000.
To ensure coverage of additional expenses, council approved the expenditure of up to $300,000 from the capital improvement fund, up to $200,000 of loaned money from the Lucas County Land Bank, and up to $200,000 from the property management fund.
Mayor D. Michael Collins said the demolition would start July 7 and take 12 weeks.
The state of Ohio acquired the Clarion in 2013, after its previous owner, ATN Hospitality LLC, was foreclosed upon after failing to pay taxes. The Lucas County sheriff’s office held two public auctions in August to sell the property, but no parties offered the starting bid of $160,805, the minimum required to cover accumulated unpaid taxes and court costs, according Ruth Seth, a supervisor at the county treasurer’s office.
The 11-story building, which the Blade described as “the only high-rise in the entire far South Toledo-Maumee area” when it opened as the Ramada Inn in 1974, suffered from a series of delinquent owners over the last decade.
The Toledo Hotel Investment LLC, a Florida-based company, acquired the property for $2.85 million in 2006, and stopped accepting reservations in 2009, after the Lucas County commissioners filed charges against it for unpaid taxes. The TransCapital Bank acquired the property the following year, after the owner failed to repay almost $2 million in loans.
ATN Hospitality, which is based in India, promised to reopen the edifice as an apartment complex mainly for graduate and medical students at the University of Toledo, Mayor Collins said. However, firm representatives did not appear at the only scheduled on-site meeting with Mr. Collins, then the district councilman from South Toledo, and ceased communication with the city afterward.
“To sue somebody in New Delhi would be literally an impossibility,” Mayor Collins said, to explain why ATN is not covering any costs of the demolition. As a councilman, he urged the Bell administration to find the money needed to tear down the building.
Though ATN is still listed as active in the Ohio Secretary of State’s business directory, its U.S.-based agent stopped representing it in 2013. Company representatives could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
The state is the default owner of the forfeited property, but in practice, responsibility for such blighted properties falls to local governments, according to David Mann, the president of the Lucas County Land Bank.
“In the real world, the state of Ohio isn’t showing up one day and boarding up the property and kicking people out,” Mr. Mann said.
County auditors hold auctions once a year, but unsold properties simply languish in the state’s possession unless the Land Bank takes over the property, as it will with the Clarion. The property is too large for the Land Bank to cover the demolition costs, as it does with smaller residential properties, so the city’s development department coordinated the funding for the project.
Councilman Tom Waniewski said the city should be more vigilant holding current and former properties owners responsible for the cost of removing derelict buildings like the former Clarion.
Three other companies responded to the development department’s bid invitation on Tuesday afternoon, including ACME Dismantling LLC of Toledo, Ohio; D & R Demolition Corporation of Archbold, Ohio; and B & B Wrecking, Inc. of Cleveland, Ohio.
In other business, council Tuesday voted 11-1 to spend $3.8 million for Toledo’s 2014 general street resurfacing program, $1.1 million for the city's annual sidewalk repair, and $509,500 for street sealing and curb replacement.
Councilman Mike Craig, who represents District 3 covering East Toledo and part of South Toledo, cast the lone dissenting votes on the three ordinances.
Council two weeks ago set in motion this year’s street-paving program and the bidding process for major projects by approving the 2014 capital improvements budget, but Mayor Collins is required to seek approval for individual projects.
Mr. Craig said District 3 has for years gotten less for street repair than any other district. The street repaving list identified 0.62 miles in East Toledo. That is compared to 8 miles for District 1; 7.17 miles in District 2; 10.3 miles in District 4; 10 miles in District 5, and 3.06 miles in District 6. Street work that occurs after waterline replacements adds 0.3 miles for District 3.
Council also voted 12-0 to authorize $50,000 for a basement flood remediation grant program, which assists property owners prevent basement flooding caused by sanitary sewer backups.
Council delayed for two weeks a vote to outsource management of its composting operations by settling a lawsuit with composting-business Clean Wood Recycling Inc. and selling a $336,300 compost turner purchased last year.
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