Tenants told skyscraper will close on Dec. 1

Toledo landmark set to sell at auction Nov. 7

The Spitzer Building at 520 Madison Ave. was Toledo’s first steel-framed skyscraper. It was built in 1896. The Spitzer family sold it in 2009.
The Spitzer Building at 520 Madison Ave. was Toledo’s first steel-framed skyscraper. It was built in 1896. The Spitzer family sold it in 2009.

Tenants and business owners in the landmark Spitzer Building were told Wednesday that the 117-year-old building will close Dec. 1 and they must move out.

Patrice Spitzer, the head of the Spitzer Building Co., made the announcement in the lobby of the downtown Toledo skyscraper at 520 Madison Ave.

“This is a sad day. I have to tell you that the Spitzer Building is closing,” she said.

Mrs. Spitzer, who has been the court-appointed receiver for the 10-story building since her company filed foreclosure action against the Ergur Private Equity Group in January, 2011, fought back tears as she told the tenants that they have just over 60 days to leave. Her dog, Rocky, a tri-colored Australian Shepherd, was by her side.

“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all of you staying in the building. This is the end of an era for sure. It’s a very sad day for downtown Toledo. It’s very sad for me. I am very sorry that all of you have to move. I hope you stay downtown,” she said.

The nearly 20 tenants who gathered in the lobby applauded Mrs. Spitzer at the end of her announcement. A longtime business owner hugged her as she left the building.

Ms. Spitzer is the widow of Lyman Spitzer, the great-grandson of A.L. Spitzer, who built the structure, Toledo’s first steel-framed skyscraper, with his cousin in 1896.

The building was purchased from the Spitzer family in 2009 by the private equity group owned by Koray Ergur of California.

Mrs. Spitzer said the decision to close the building was made after a meeting Tuesday with officials of the Lucas County Land Bank, which has been trying to take possession of the property for a potential revitalization opportunity.

She cited the building’s low occupancy, currently at about 33 percent; expenses incurred to pay for maintenance and repairs to equipment, and the long legal battle in the bankruptcy action as the reasons for closing the doors.

Also entering into the decision is the cost for additional employees to make fire safety checks that the city of Toledo is requiring because the fire-alarm system and emergency voice-alarm communication system in the building are not working, she said.

“The numbers just do not add up. The best thing, sadly, is for the building to close,” she said.

The building had been scheduled for auction at a Lucas County sheriff’s sale in June but was canceled after Mr. Ergur filed for bankruptcy protection in California.

Michael Beazley, the Land Bank’s president, said Mr. Ergur’s petition for bankruptcy was dismissed several weeks ago by a federal judge in San Francisco.

The auction of the Spitzer Building has been rescheduled for Nov. 7 in the county courthouse. A minimum bid of $266,117 — the amount of back taxes owed on the property and the fees awarded to the receiver — is required to participate in the auction.

Mr. Beazley, who also spoke to the tenants, said delay in getting the building to auction has hindered the Land Bank’s efforts to get the property into the hands of potential developers.

“The challenge is that we don’t know when we can get title of the building,” he said. “The good news out of all of this is we have very strong interest in people who want to redevelop this property. But we can’t tell them when.”

Local attorney Jerry Phillips has leased an office in the building since 1969, his entire career in the legal profession, and is one of the longest tenants in the building. He said he started looking for new office space about a year ago because of issues surrounding the foreclosure, and will likely remain downtown.

“I think it is a loss for the city and for downtown,” he said.

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