Thursday, May 24, 2018
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City land swap, demolition plans move ahead

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said his staff is working on two fronts to complete a land swap with the federal government and demolish buildings on the two parcels to be traded.

The city and the U.S. General Services Administration have agreed to trade city-owned property on North Michigan Street downtown for the land where the Federal Building is located on Summit Street.

As a condition of the swap, the city first must demolish the former St. Mary's parish house at 618 North Michigan, commonly referred to as the Welfare Building, before the federal government will accept the land.

Once the swap is finished, the city intends to demolish the Federal Building to make way for a parking facility to serve the entertainment complex planned for the former Toledo Edison steam plant on the Maumee riverfront behind the Federal Building.

Local activist Rick Van Landingham is fighting to save the Welfare Building, because he believes the 1879 structure is historic and should be reused.

He most recently asked the National Advisory Council on Historic Preservation for a ruling on whether the building is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The request was referred to the Department of the Interior's National Park Service, which oversees the National Register of Historic Places.

Deborah Younger, the city's assistant chief operating officer, said she went to Washington last week and met with Patrick Andrus, a historian for the park service, to make the city's case for demolition.

In the short term, the city wants to use the Welfare Building site for parking for city employees that will be needed by Nov. 30, she said.

A Lucas County Common Pleas judge cleared the way for the city to demolish the Welfare Building, and it was supposed to be razed Nov. 7.

While the city believes the court ruling allows it to demolish the Welfare Building now, it is willing to wait for this review to be completed to avoid jeopardizing any future use of the land, Ms. Younger said.

It is expected that the federal government will build a federal office building on the site within the next five years, she said.

Ms. Younger said while Mr. Andrus could take up to 45 days to make a decision, she feels he is aware of the city's timelines and may not take that long.

The city wants to tear down the Federal Building on Summit Street by Dec. 15.

Meanwhile, Mayor Finkbeiner said his staff has come up with an amended plan to pay for the demolition of the Federal Building, but he would not give details of the plan until it is presented to council.

Two weeks ago, council rejected a proposal by the administration to use $500,000 in federal money and $620,000 from the city's 1999 and 2000 capital improvement budgets to pay for the demolition.

Approximately $420,000 of the city's contribution would have come from money set aside in the 2000 budget for downtown development, with the other $200,000 being taken from money in the 1999 budget that was earmarked for an industrial park at a former brownfield site at Miami Street and Oakdale Avenue.

Council said they would not consent to funding that took money away from projects council previously approved.

Council President Peter Ujvagi said yesterday that council had not been given a copy of the new funding plan, but council was working to make the plan a reality.

“I am hopeful we are going to be able to put a reasonable package together,” he said.

He said council wants to get the administration together with the Downtown Toledo Parking Authority, which council intends to put in charge of supervising the design, construction, and management of whatever parking structure is built.

Mr. Ujvagi said the two parties need to sit down and talk, because the design of the parking structure will affect how much of the federal building's substructure should be demolished.

But so far, a meeting has not taken place, he said.

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