A pair of 120-year-old vacant apartment buildings in Toledo's Old West End neighborhood could soon be razed following a demolition vote yesterday by the Old West End Historic District Commission.
Although aesthetically unique from the exterior, the three-story buildings of reddish-brown brick and decorative stone at 2127 and 2131 Collingwood Blvd. have suffered frm neglect in recent years and are crumbling — particularly inside.
“Sadly, it's pretty much gone on the interior,” said commission member Gary Hoffman. “We are kind of left with no decision except to demolish them.”
Commission members voted 3-2 in favor of demolition, on condition that the city seek ownership title to the parcels and work with a neighborhood or community group on what to do with the land once the buildings are down. Commissioners Paul Sullivan and Lisa Cottrell opposed the motion.
The buildings, which date to 1890 and were once known as “Collingwood Manor” and “Georgian Manor,” suffer from multiple roof and ceiling leaks, a weather-exposed interior, hollowed-out walls, and filthy, trash-strewn conditions.
Squatters have invaded at least one of the buildings, leaving a trail of empty food cans, soiled toilet paper, dirty clothing, and loose personal checks that appear to have been stolen from the mail of Old West End residents. The structures are not registered individually as historic but are in a historic district.
In 2007, the city requested the twin buildings be demolished to abate the nuisance and threat to surrounding property. Clement Chukwu, associate planner for Toledo-Lucas County Plan Commissions, said the city considers the situation “demolition by neglect,” and faults the properties' owners.
During Monday's meeting, Bob Mossing, the city's code enforcement manager, told commissioners that the buildings represent a public hazard.
“Somebody is going to get killed in there someday, just like they did on Elm Street,” said Mr. Mossing, a reference to the abandoned North Toledo warehouse where the body of 21-year-old Cindy Sumner was discovered last summer.
Owners of the Collingwood parcels are listed as Foster and Barbara Price of West Toledo. Mr. Price died in 2005, according to a published death notice. Two years later, Mrs. Price signed a “disclosure and release” with the city, allowing demolition to proceed without transferring ownership.
There's a total $155,000 of tax arrearage between the two properties.
The 20-unit and 24-unit buildings, each about 24,000 square feet, have been vacant since the mid-2000s. The 2127 Collingwood building — Collingwood Manor — made the news 10 years ago when a young woman was stabbed to death there by her boyfriend.
“For quite some time, that property had tenants, and they should have used some of the money they got from the tenants to fix them up without letting it get to the point that it got,” Mr. Chukwu said.
Attempts by The Blade to reach Mrs. Price were unsuccessful. Mr. Chukwu said that the city's recent mailings to her last known address were returned to sender.
Commission members tried for months without success to find an organization or individual who could save or rehabilitate the properties. Mr. Chukwu said the city didn't have much luck, either.
A report by the Martin + Wood Appraisal Group calculated the cost of rehabilitation at $3.6 million for one of the two buildings. Renovating both could cost upwards of $6 million.
“We had a couple of people who went and looked at it, but the numbers didn't add up,” Mr. Chukwu said.
Mr. Mossing said he anticipates using Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant money for the demolition, which he hopes can happen soon. The city will begin seeking bids for the work. City officials also will attempt to recoup some of the costs from Mrs. Price.
Once the site is clear, future possibilities include a community garden, “green space,” or even a new apartment complex.
Resident Robert Davis of Lawrence Avenue noted how the buildings sit along a very visible part of Collingwood and told commissioners he hopes someone can quickly redevelop the site.
“To tear those buildings down and to leave the properties empty would be tantamount to walking around with your two front teeth out,” Mr. Davis said.
Mr. Sullivan, an architect who voted against the demolition plan, shared that concern.
“It is going to be a humongous hole in what is one of the strongest streets in the neighborhood,” Mr. Sullivan said.
“It's mind-numbing to me that we're going to take it down and decide what we're going to do with it later.”
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