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Published: Tuesday, 11/7/2000

Parish house to get 2nd look as a historic site


Opponents of the city's plans to raze the former St. Mary's parish house on North Michigan Street have delayed its demolition, but Toledo officials expect the reprieve to be brief.

After a protest was filed with another federal agency, the U.S. General Services Administration has asked Toledo to hold off tearing down the 121-year-old structure at 618 North Michigan pending further federal review, Deborah Younger, the city's assistant chief operating officer, said yesterday.

An opposition group led by activist Rick VanLandingham III filed a request last week with the National Advisory Council on Historic Preservation for a ruling on whether the building, known also as the Welfare Building, is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

The request was referred to the Department of the Interior, whose National Park Service unit includes a staff member who oversees the National Register of Historic Places.

While federal procedures provide for a 45-day review period, Ms. Younger said, city officials expect the matter to be resolved much sooner than that. Ms. Younger said she will meet Thursday in Washington with the keeper of the historic register.

The city plans to raze the building and give the land to the federal government. In exchange, the city would get the Summit Street site of Toledo's Federal Building, which is to be torn down and redeveloped as parking for a proposed entertainment complex at the old Toledo Edison steam plant.

City officials had expected to start tearing down the building yesterday after receiving a favorable ruling last week in county court.

But Mr. VanLandingham, who maintains that the building should be preserved as part of a federal courthouse complex proposed to be built on the site, said without a proper determination about its potential historic status, the courthouse project could end up ineligible for federal funding.

The Ohio Historic Preservation Office has stated that the building does not warrant landmark status. Mr. VanLandingham said, however, that state officials' opinion in that regard has no legal standing.

Mr. VanLandingham's group has a lawsuit pending in Lucas County Common Pleas Court contending that the city did not follow proper procedure in pursuing the building's demolition. But last week, Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Frederick McDonald lifted a temporary restraining order blocking the demolition, saying that the city had complied substantially.

Ordinarily, Ms. Younger said, the national advisory council mediates when cities and states disagree on historic preservation. In this case, she said, Toledo and Ohio are on the same side, but the council occasionally does address issues raised by citizens.

Steve Herwat, director of the city plan commission, said the latest appeal merely adds “an extra layer of caution” before the demolition proceeds. “We do not anticipate that there will be any change” in the city's plans, he said.

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said federal officials “have been informed of how this fits in with the preservation of the steam plant” and have been apprised of the previous state review of the demolition plan.

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