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Published: 4/27/2011

Old post office could be razed by end of year

Jefferson Center fate may hinge on historic building's occupancy

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The Jefferson Center, at 13th Street and Madison Avenue, opened in 1911 as the Old Central Post Office. The building, designed by architect James Knox Taylor, went on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. The Jefferson Center, at 13th Street and Madison Avenue, opened in 1911 as the Old Central Post Office. The building, designed by architect James Knox Taylor, went on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
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The fate of Toledo's historic former post office building is in limbo.

The Jefferson Center at 13th Street and Madison Avenue, which was once Toledo's central post office and is now owned by Toledo Public Schools, is scheduled to be demolished by the end of the year.

But its fate largely depends on who, if anyone, will occupy the building in the future. The school district could pull the building off the wrecking-ball list. No final decision has been made on what will become of the building.

"We understand there will be some concerns with the building," TPS business manager James Gant said. "We understand what role it plays in the community."

The building, placed in 1972 on the National Register of Historic Places as the Old Central Post Office, was designed by classical design advocate and architect James Knox Taylor, the supervising architect of the Department of the Treasury who left his mark on hundreds of federal buildings across the United States. The Old Central Post Office opened in 1911.

The school district bought the building from the federal government in 1966 for $1 -- on the condition that the facility be used for educational purposes -- and operated it until 1970 as the Jefferson Center for Vocational Rehabilitation.

The school was converted in 1970 into the district's alternative school. It was closed after voters rejected a 6.9-mill levy in 2000 that forced the district to cut about $15 million from its budget.

The Jefferson Center is currently leased by the Economic Opportunity and Planning Association of Toledo and houses about 500 children in the Head Start program. Demolition on the historic building tentatively is scheduled to begin June 13.  The Jefferson Center is currently leased by the Economic Opportunity and Planning Association of Toledo and houses about 500 children in the Head Start program. Demolition on the historic building tentatively is scheduled to begin June 13.
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The center, like Libbey High School in South Toledo, is scheduled to be demolished by the end of the year. If demolition is not begun by then, the district may lose funding from the Ohio School Facilities Commission for the work. TPS would then be responsible for any possible demolition, along with maintaining the building while it is still open.

Demolition is tentatively to begin June 13, Mr. Gant said, with bidding for the work to begin in May.

But while the Libbey school is likely to be torn down, the Jefferson Center's fate is not set in stone, district officials said.

The building is currently leased by the Economic Opportunity and Planning Association of Toledo and houses about 500 children in the Head Start program.

James Powell, president of EOPA, says the association pays $1,000 a month in rent for the facility and handles all maintenance and utility costs for running the building.

That lease expires this year. The district and EOPA are in discussions about where Head Start, which also uses several other district buildings, will house their children next year.

"We are preparing for the worst eventuality, but TPS has not advised us that the building will definitely be demolished," Mr. Powell said. "We would prefer to stay in that building."

The Old Central Post Office, shown in 1953, was purchased by Toledo Public Schools for $1 from the government in 1966 on the condition that it be used for educational purposes. It was converted to an alternative school in 1970 and closed after voters rejected a levy in 2000. The Old Central Post Office, shown in 1953, was purchased by Toledo Public Schools for $1 from the government in 1966 on the condition that it be used for educational purposes. It was converted to an alternative school in 1970 and closed after voters rejected a levy in 2000.
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When told of Mr. Powell's stated preference, Mr. Gant said he looks "forward to having that conversation," with Mr. Powell.

He emphasized that no official determination has been made on the Jefferson Center's fate.

If Head Start does leave the building and the district doesn't find another use for the structure -- which occupies the block bounded by 13th and 14th streets and Jefferson and Madison avenues -- the district would then have to decide whether to pay for the building's upkeep and forgo state funding for demolition.

One local architect doubted the school district would ever raze the Jefferson Center because of the likely public outcry it would prompt.

Paul Sullivan said the building has been used for decades and should continue to be used.

"Demolition just because you have the money doesn't make any sense," Mr. Sullivan said. "That's kind of shortsighted."

Mr. Gant said district officials will likely sit down with school board members in coming weeks to discuss possible plans for the Jefferson Center, along with other buildings that are scheduled to be razed.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com, or 419-724-6086.



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