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Just in time for Harrison Rally Day in downtown Perrysburg next week, contractors are finishing up the first phase of renovations at the Commodore Building.
The Commodore, which houses administrative offices for the Perrysburg School District, has a new roof, new windows on its west side, a reconfigured staircase inside, and a new main entrance built with a curved awning, terrazzo flooring, and brick-and-sandstone trim that mirrors the look of the 1931 building.
"Preservation is the key word here. We wanted to make it look like it belonged," Richard Jones, executive director of support services for the district, said.
Brick was cleaned and tuckpointed on the building's west side. A new 75-space parking lot has been built, and a wide, 10-foot sidewalk poured from Fifth Street to Indiana Avenue.
Still to come: a bronze statue dubbed The Town Pump, that depicts a young boy pumping a water well for a little girl to drink from. The sculpture, by Ralph Kleeberger of Perrysburg, is to be installed along the new sidewalk closest to the Indiana Avenue side.
This phase of renovation, which also includes painting the exterior gymnaisum walls, will cost $677,484. District Treasurer Matt Feasel said the bill is being paid with proceeds from tax abatement agreements with businesses and a tax increment financing agreement with Levis Commons.
Two more phases of renovation - converting the second floor into offices and finishing the exterior renovation - are planned during the next two summers at the building, which not too long ago was a source of community debate, especially among historic preservationists who hoped to see the entire school saved.
Various proposals were considered for the Commodore, but in the end, the school board decided to tear down the 1894 and 1916 portions of the building as well as a science wing added in 1991. It kept the three-story 1931 portion, which includes an auditorium, plus the gymnasium built in 1957.
The area that was cleared has been converted to a park, where concerts were held on Thursday evenings this summer during the weekly farmers market downtown.
Clint Mauk, immediate past president of Historic Perrysburg, said short of preserving the oldest parts of the school, the outcome has been as good a compromise as could be expected.
"I think all in all it's good. You win some, you lose some," Mr. Mauk said. "The school board was stuck between a rock and a hard place. They couldn't afford to keep it. They couldn't afford to remodel it."
Mr. Mauk applauded the Perrysburg Area Arts Council for moving its summer concert series to the Commodore park.
"It's a very nice arrangement, good for the whole community," he said. "It's been very popular."
Mayor Nelson Evans agreed, saying he's glad to see the new downtown greenspace along with the work going on at the building.
"I think they did a nice job with the facade. It matches the building and the architecture," he said. "I think it's turned out pretty well considering all the angst that everybody had."