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Published: Tuesday, 9/9/2008

Toledo mayor seeks United Way demolition delay

BY KATE GIAMMARISE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said yesterday that he plans to ask the United Way of Greater Toledo to not demolish its building for at least two to three years to allow a feasible preservation solution to be found.

Bill Kitson, president and chief executive officer of the United Way, said he hasn t formally received the mayor s request, and wasn t sure how the agency would be able to fund keeping the building standing.

How does this get paid for? Mr. Kitson asked. Even a three-year moratorium means three more years of operating costs.

Last month, the United Way announced plans to build a new, smaller headquarters building, then tear down its current home at One Stranahan Square.

The 1969 building that houses the agency would be too costly to renovate at least $10 million, according to United Way and the group no longer needs as much space, agency officials have said.

United Way s Bill Kitson says the $400,000 annual upkeep on the building is money that could be better spent on helping agency clients. Mr. Kitson is United Way president and CEO. United Way s Bill Kitson says the $400,000 annual upkeep on the building is money that could be better spent on helping agency clients. Mr. Kitson is United Way president and CEO.
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The new building would be only about 25,000 square feet, rather than the 100,000 square feet of the current building. The agency doesn t want to continue to spend $400,000 a year on the building s upkeep, Mr. Kitson and other United Way officials have said.

Mr. Finkbeiner made his announcement last night at a special joint meeting of the Toledo City Historic District Commission, Vistula Historic District Commission, and the Old West End Historic District Commission.

The groups passed a joint resolution asking the United Way to reconsider its decision and asking it to try to sell the building.

We simply can t tear down unique and distinctive buildings in our city, Mr. Finkbeiner told the group, several of whom were wearing T-shirts with a picture of the building and the word, Save.

The mayor said he plans to put his request in writing today in a letter to the United Way.

Mr. Finkbeiner declined yesterday to say what he could do to prevent the demolition should the United Way board ignore his request for a moratorium.

I am prepared to do what I can do to preserve the integrity of that building, he said.

We don t have a lot of people building buildings of that dimension and stature in downtown and every time we tear one down, we destroy the fabric of the central business district.

The agency would need to obtain permission from the five-member city plan commission for the demolition. It hasn t submitted any plans or documents to the commission.

Mr. Finkbeiner said he plans to tour the building Friday. Representatives from the University of Toledo s college of law and Lucas County have toured the building, but declined to pursue purchasing it.

While the United Way has drawn fire from preservation advocates who say it hasn t done enough to save the building or help find a buyer, the agency has said it is doing what is necessary for the long-term financial health of the organization and the community it serves.

Mr. Kitson fielded numerous questions last night from preservation advocates.

We are losing significant money every year year after year after year, he said of the cost of the building s upkeep.

That s money that should be going to help people with rent assistance, food, or utility help, he said.

At the end of the day, We still don t have any viable financial solution, other than the plan United Way is proposing, Mr. Kitson said.

The structure was designed by prominent Toledo architect Byron West, who has said the building was intended as a memorial to the Stranahan family, which funded its construction to house the United Way and other nonprofit agencies.

Staff writer Ignazio Messina contributed to this story.

Contact Kate Giammarise at:kgiammarise@theblade.comor 419-724-6133.



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