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Published: Wednesday, 2/20/2013

ICONIC FACILITY TO STILL SERVE COMMUNITY

Cherry Street Mission wants to buy ex-Macomber High

Agency for homeless to consolidate 6 operations

BY TOM HENRY AND KELLY McLENDON
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
The Macomber building dates to 1938. It was used as a vocational high school for boys and operated with the nearby Whitney High School for girls beginning in 1959. Toledo Public Schools closed both schools in 1991, and Macomber was sold in 1998. The Cherry Street Mission deal hinges on the outcome of an engineering report. The Macomber building dates to 1938. It was used as a vocational high school for boys and operated with the nearby Whitney High School for girls beginning in 1959. Toledo Public Schools closed both schools in 1991, and Macomber was sold in 1998. The Cherry Street Mission deal hinges on the outcome of an engineering report.
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Cherry Street Mission Ministries soon hopes to acquire the former Macomber Vocational High School on Monroe Street so it eventually can bring six of its flagship operations under one roof and provide housing, meals, and medical services more efficiently to area homeless people.

Under a five-year plan revealed to The Blade on Monday night, Dan Rogers, Cherry Street president and chief executive officer, said the longstanding mission for men on 17th Street and Monroe would be moved into the mostly vacant high school along with the organization’s two main facilities for women, Sparrow’s Nest on West Delaware Street and The Oaks on Bronson Avenue.

Cherry Street also would move its Caleb House transitional housing for men, 128 18th St., into the former high school building as well as the organization’s four-unit Maple Street Apartments on Maple Street and its Madison Food Service and Community Center on West Madison Avenue.

Cherry Street recently entered into a purchase agreement with the owner of the building, a group of investors in the state of Oregon called AFF Ohio LLC. The deal is pending the outcome of an engineering report Cherry Street expects to receive from a consultant on how much money it would take to bring the former Macomber site into compliance with building codes.

That report is expected within two weeks.

Students and their instructor work on a Westinghouse J-34 Turbo Jet engine at Macomber.  During World War II, Macomber focused on defense and operated around the clock, according to a Blade article. Students and their instructor work on a Westinghouse J-34 Turbo Jet engine at Macomber. During World War II, Macomber focused on defense and operated around the clock, according to a Blade article.
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It is believed the building needs a new roof, electrical wiring, plumbing, and heating and sprinkler systems, and that it will need to become more accessible to people with disabilities. No deal breakers are expected, Mr. Rogers said.

“We believe, short of any surprises, we are going to purchase this building,” Mr. Rogers said.

Cherry Street envisions its move, one of the largest in the organization’s 65-year history, would take about five years to complete.

The cost estimate won’t be known until the engineering report is finished. Mr. Rogers did not disclose the amount Cherry Street has offered for the building but said it was less than the $480,000 purchase price.

Homeless advocate Ken Leslie, a friend of Mr. Rogers, said Monday night he knew about the project and is thrilled with it.

“To be able to have all of your resources in one place is fantastic,” Mr. Leslie said. “It really is a cool concept.”

Mr. Leslie said the project ultimately will put less stress on those who need services as well as on those who provide them.

“This is one of those incredible opportunities for the community to rally around with compassion,” Mr. Leslie said.

Mr. Rogers said the deal, if completed, would help Cherry Street provide services more efficiently and effectively while saving an iconic building on the edge of downtown.

Services now are fragmented among several buildings. The space between buildings effectively acts like barriers to some of their clients, he said.

The Cherry Street Mission says it will renovate Macomber's auditorium, shown here, and its gymnasium for public use. The Cherry Street Mission says it will renovate Macomber's auditorium, shown here, and its gymnasium for public use.
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“The No. 1 reason is to remove barriers,” Mr. Rogers said.

Cherry Street’s operations serve about 280 men and women a night. The operations are at 90 percent or more capacity much of the year and often full, sometimes beyond capacity, in the winter.

The organization plans to expand its bed capacity 30 percent if it moves into the former Macomber building, which has more than enough space to accommodate that. The additional elbow room could help keep flu bugs and other illnesses from spreading, Mr. Rogers said. The extra room will help Cherry Street avoid putting people on the floor to sleep when harsh weather conditions force unusually high numbers indoors, he said.

Cherry Street plans to refurbish Macomber’s gymnasium and auditorium. Both would be made available to the community at large, Mr. Rogers said.

The former Macomber building, at 1501 Monroe St., dates back to 1938 and became jointly operated with the nearby Whitney High School for girls in 1959. Both closed in 1991.

Former NBA and Ohio State University basketball standout Jim Jackson played at Macomber.

The building, which Toledo Public Schools sold to a private entity in 1998, has been used for various purposes since classes were last held there 22 years ago. But most of the building has sat idle.

AFF Ohio acquired it via a Lucas County sheriff’s auction in 2008 for $500,000.

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com or 419-724-6079



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