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Published: Thursday, 7/11/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

County land bank acquires123-year-old Pythian Castle

Downtown building last used in 1970s

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The Pythian Castle at Jefferson Avenue and Ontario Street is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Pythian Castle at Jefferson Avenue and Ontario Street is on the National Register of Historic Places.
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The agency with the authority to turn eyesores into eye-catching properties can see revitalization opportunities in the 123-year-old Pythian Castle.

The long vacant building — once a fraternal lodge for the Knights of Pythias that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places — was acquired by the Lucas County Land Bank on Tuesday.

The estate of Brian Uram donated the castle to the land bank. The donation erases about $31,400 in back real estate taxes that the estate owed. The Lucas County auditor values the castle at $29,000.

County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz said the bank is working with Louisville Title Agency to find a developer that would preserve the building at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Ontario Street and adapt it for new uses.

“I’m excited the land bank can take the first step in converting this historically significant building into a positive use,” said Mr. Kapszukiewicz, who is chairman of the property revitalization group.

While the title agency, acting as a trustee, looks for a developer, the land bank will retain ownership of the building, which has been vacant since the 1970s.

The nonprofit land bank is funded by an increase in penalties for delinquent property taxpayers. It acquires tax-delinquent vacant buildings in hopes of finding reuse for them.

Mr. Kapszukiewicz said he would like to get a committed developer to preserve the building’s exterior and renovate the interior into a mix of retail, office, and upscale residential lofts, which is what is being planned for the old Burt’s Theater, across the street from the Pythian.

The theater, which most recently housed Caesar’s Show Bar, was obtained by the land bank in February and later transferred to developer IBC Inc., which replaced and shored up the roof of the 115-year-old building.

“The mission of the land bank is to strengthen neighborhoods by attacking the problems associated with blight and vacant buildings,” the treasurer said. “Just as we’ve done with the old Caesar’s Show Bar across the street, we are taking action to revitalize an important part of our downtown area.”

David Ball, a developer who began investing in downtown Toledo buildings in the 1980s, said the land bank’s efforts are a step in the right direction to save the Pythian from further decay and possible demolition.

“The building is still worth preserving. The structure is still solid. I think it can be saved, but if let go much longer that isn’t the case,” he said.

The land bank program is often associated with demolishing dilapidated structures in blighted areas. However, Mr. Kapszukiewicz said the acquisition of the two buildings shows it can be an effective tool in redevelopment.

“The point here is that we can do both. In both cases our mission is the same: revitalizing and stabilizing neighborhoods and stopping the erosion of property values that our community has seen,” he said. “This gives us the opportunity to show the other side of what we do.”

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.



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