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Published: Wednesday, 5/4/2011

Preservation of Jefferson Center gains ground

BY TAYLOR DUNGJEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

As long as the full Toledo Board of Education approves, the historic Jefferson Center — the former Central Post Office — will not come tumbling down.

At a news conference Tuesday, three school board members — President Bob Vasquez, Vice President Lisa Sobecki, and Brenda Hill — said they will present the full board with a resolution to remove the downtown building from the demolition list.

“As president of the board, what I’m saying is that I’m encouraging my fellow board members to vote positively on the resolution,” Mr. Vasquez said, noting the presence of the two other members.

The five-member board needs a majority vote to pass the resolution. With the three showing support at Tuesday, and board member Larry Sykes having said he will not support tearing down the building, the board appears to have a majority vote.

“We really never know [what will happen] until we get here,” Mr. Vasquez said.

The school board members said they have been approached with possible alternative uses but wouldn’t elaborate on what they are or who has expressed an interest in the space at 13th Street and Madison Avenue near downtown. They also said they would start immediately looking for a “community use.”

“It’s very preliminary,” Ms. Sobecki said.

The Jefferson Center is currently home to the Head Start program and is leased by the Economic Opportunity and Planning Association of Toledo.

The association pays $1,000 a month in rent and pays all maintenance and utility costs for the building. The lease expires this year.

Mr. Vasquez said he wasn’t sure if Head Start would remain in the building, but that possibility would be part of the discussions, he said.

“We’re not looking to house another school, but that doesn’t preclude the Toledo school district from using it for whatever programs we might have, even if we don’t use the whole building,” Mr. Vasquez said. “We might look at using part of it.”

The building and Libbey High School were scheduled for demolition by the end of the year to capitalize on funds made available through the Ohio School Facilities Commission. Libbey is still set to be razed.

“We don’t want anyone to believe we want to tear down the [Jefferson Center],” Mr. Vasquez said. “We can’t save all of them, but this is a special case.”

The board members said they would call for a special meeting to present the resolution. The next special meeting is scheduled for May 11; Mr. Vasquez said he is hoping the resolution will be ready by then.

Ms. Sobecki said she did a walk-through of the Jefferson Center on Friday to get a sense of the building’s condition.

“I’m not an architect or an engineer, so I won’t pretend to be. ... It looks relatively good for the age of the building,” she said. “Of course we could all use a little paint on the walls; my house could use a little paint on the walls. If there are any major [problems], I’m not aware. It’s a very sound building. It’s been there for years.”

The former Central Post Office, designed by James Knox Taylor, opened in 1911. In 1966, the school district bought it from the federal government for $1 on the condition that it be used for educational purposes. The district operated the building until 1970 as the Jefferson Center for Vocational Rehabilitation. In 1970, the school was converted to the district’s alternative school and was closed after voters rejected a 6.9-mill levy in 2000. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

Contact Taylor Dungjen at:
tdungjen@theblade.com
or 419-724-6054.



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