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Published: Thursday, 3/11/2010

Toledo Plan Commission votes 3-2 for United Way demolition


In a split vote, the Toledo Plan Commission voted 3-2 Thursday in favor of approving a demolition request from the United Way of Greater Toledo for its former headquarters building downtown.

Voting for demolition were commissioners Rey Boezi, Bernard Culp, and David Gstalder. Opposed to the razing were commissioners Catherine G. Hoolahan and A. Bailey Stanbery.

"Very disappointing," Ms. Hoolahan said prior to voting. "I really deplore the tear-down mentality."

The city will now wait 10 days before issuing the United Way's demolition permit. But if an "interested party" like a councilman, architect, or concerned citzen appeals the commission's decision, the demolition request will go to city council for a final vote.

Several prominent citizens and public officials including Toledo City Councilman Joe McNamara and Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop lobbied the commission unsuccessfully for a six-month delay to allow more time to aggressively market the now-vacant building for reuse.

However, Bill Kitson, the United Way's president and CEO, told commissioners that he opposed such a delay and warned that a six-month waiting period would burden his agency with $100,000 of maintainence expenses, impacting funding to other nonprofit agencies that help the needy.

"Which agency doesn't get support this year when I have to cut $100,000 out of our budget?," Mr. Kitson said rhetorically. "The question I ask you is who pays for this, who pays for the empty building that's sitting there" if it's not torn down.

Mr. McNamara also criticized the United Way's plan to clear the land of its old headquarters building in order to eventually sell it to a future developer. The 1969 building at One Stranahan Square was vacated by the United Way in October when it moved into an adjacent new building.

Mr. Kitson said in an interview earlier this week that clearing the site is a "community-friendly land banking opportunity."

He said United Way made every effort to find a buyer for the building but to no avail. He said that keeping the building open costs more than $200,000 a year that the agency could use to help the needy.

Hours before the plan commission's vote, some city council members sat for a downtown Toledo history lesson from a 2009 graduate of Sylvania Southview High School.

Kiernan Sanders, 18, a freshman architecture student at the Illinois Institute of Technology who's home on spring break, gave a multimedia slide show presentation highlighting the many historic buildings that once filled downtown but have been replaced with parking lots.

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