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Published: Thursday, 12/18/2008

$3M grant set to clean up shuttered Fiberglas Tower

A $3 million state grant is to be used to remove asbestos from the former Fiberglas Tower.
A $3 million state grant is to be used to remove asbestos from the former Fiberglas Tower.

The state of Ohio awarded a $3 million grant yesterday that could clear the way for the redevelopment of Toledo s largest vacant building the former Fiberglas Tower, a dark hulk on the downtown skyline for more than a decade.

The Clean Ohio Council unanimously approved the grant from the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund to the city.

The money will be used to remove asbestos fireproofing sprayed on the top and bottom of each concrete floor during construction of the tower in the late 1960s.

Today was a great day for one of Toledo s great old buildings, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said in a statement.

In August, the Eyde Co., the building s owner, announced a plan to remake the one-time Owens Corning headquarters now called Tower on the Maumee into a complex that would include a 96-room hotel, offices, condominiums, and restaurants.

I m really excited, said Nick Eyde, a limited partner in the East Lansing, Mich., firm. It s a big help for our project. The biggest and first hurdle is getting the asbestos removed, which the grant will allow us to do, and give the building a clean bill of health.

The Eyde Co. had to commit $1 million to match the grant. The total investment in the project could be more than $35 million, Mr. Eyde said in August.

CLt. Gov. Lee Fisher, chairman of the Clean Ohio Council, said he made a commitment to restore the Fiberglas Tower. CLt. Gov. Lee Fisher, chairman of the Clean Ohio Council, said he made a commitment to restore the Fiberglas Tower.

Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, chairman of the Clean Ohio Council, recalled touring the already-vacant building in October, 1998, as the Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

I made a commitment that if I were elected governor, I would do everything I could to restore Fiberglas Tower and restore it to its grandeur and perhaps a new use, said Mr. Fisher, who also is director of the Ohio Department of Development.

He couldn t keep the commitment, he added, because he wasn t elected governor. Bob Taft was.

There is some personal satisfaction in being able to keep my commitment of 10 years ago, but the principal reason that this was done is that it is a wonderful brownfield redevelopment worthy of the state s support, Mr. Fisher said.

One purpose of the grant program is to clean up unused commercial or industrial sites. Most often, they really are brownfields.

There s nothing in the statute that [says] you can t have a vertical brownfield, Mr. Fisher said. This is one of those rare times when we re using the Clean Ohio money to restore a building rather than a piece of land. This is perfectly in line with the intent.

The project matches several of the state s goals, Mr. Fisher said, including urban redevelopment, brownfield redevelopment, and mixed-use economic development.

I think it s fair to say that the fact that it has a unique location in downtown Toledo made it even more of an attractive candidate for state funds, he said.

Owens Corning moved away and into its new Maumee River-front headquarters in 1997.

Ground for the Fiberglas Tower was broken May 1, 1967. The first employees of what was then Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp. started to move in July 24, 1969.

The 28th floor became the Top of the Tower restaurant in 1971, and for more than a decade, diners were attracted by the views, if not the food.

Regular dinner business ended in June, 1980, and by the end of 1982, lunches and private bookings ceased.

It would be a dream of mine to see that back again, a restaurant at the top of that building that vista, that view, said Don Monroe, a senior development specialist for the city.

The priority for the building s owner is attracting an anchor tenant for the office space. Until now, the first question from prospects has been about the asbestos.

Now I can say it s coming out, Mr. Eyde said.

Asbestos removal should begin in the spring, he said.

The building has 392,000 square feet of space, more than 100,000 feet of which would be used for office tenants.

In all, more than $12.7 million in grants were awarded yesterday through the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund.

Also awarded was $2 million to Fremont for demolition and cleanup at the former Clauss Cutlery site. The firm moved to Fremont in 1887 and helped establish the Sandusky County community as a center of knife and blade manufacturing.

Clauss Cutlery closed Oct. 1, 2004.

Contact Mark Zaborney at:mzaborney@theblade.comor 419-724-6182.

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