TWINSBURG -- The city will gauge the cost of demolishing the Old School building on Darrow Road, after City Council voted unanimously to obtain estimates on razing the city-owned structure at its March 14 meeting.

There was no written legislation on the agenda accompanying the vote.

Councilman Bill Furey (At-large) said Council has discussed obtaining a concrete estimate in the past and "has some unconfirmed projections on what it would cost."

"Personally, I've said this for years, I think that the facility is a hindrance to development in the downtown area," Furey said.

Mayor Ted Yates said the city "put a placeholder in the budget this year to work on the asbestos," but has nothing budgeted for demolition. Furey said demolition costs could range between $500,000 and $1 million, though those numbers are "very rough estimates," Furey said.

"I've had discussions with Larry [Finch, director of planning and community development] about finding out what those numbers are, and we've had ranges," Yates said.

"I don't want to keep applying for grants and keep waiting and waiting and waiting for a response," Furey said. "I want to make progress. By going out for bids, we can then make a decision."

Furey said the city should be able to offset the cost of demolition by selling the property, which has been appraised at between $1.2 and $1.4 million. If the building were to be demolished, the property could more easily be sold to a developer for the downtown area.

In December, the city applied for a Brownfield Grant to help allay the $250,000 cost of removing asbestos from the 40,000-square-foot structure, a task that must be done regardless of whether the Old School is torn down, city officials have said. City officials say they hope to hear about securing the grant by May.

The grant would provide up to $200,000, according to city officials. The city would then need to come up with 20 percent in matching funds, Finch has said.

The grants are offered once a year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to communities to clean up properties so they can be re-purposed.

Councilman Sam Scaffide (Ward 1) said he agreed with the the move to find a firm estimate on the demolition.

"I think this is a good move," Scaffide said. "I'm ready to move forward on this."

City officials have estimated the cost to repair and re-purpose the Old School at between $4 million and $8 million, and have said that if the building cannot be sold after the asbestos is removed, it should be razed.

The city is eyeing the 16 acres on which the Old School sits for its downtown redevelopment plans, which include a redesigned, pedestrian friendly downtown area around Twinsburg Township Square and the Town Center Plaza area, featuring mixed-use zoning and architecture with a "uniquely Twinsburg" aesthetic.

A grassroots group known as the Committee to Save the Old School has been vocal in its defense of keeping the Old School, arguing that the facility represents a specific and unique heritage in Twinsburg, sitting on the site of the city's first centralized school and becoming, over the years, an iconic structure in the city.

Some who support keeping the structure have charged that the city is exercising "demolition by neglect," forcing a demolition of the structure as the only possible outcome by neglecting to maintain it.

The Old School was constructed in 1921. The building was expanded in 1952 and closed as a public school building in 1992. The structure has never had any type of official historic designation.

Before Daimler Chrysler (in conjunction with Kent State University) opened the United Auto Workers Training Center in 1995, some minor fixes were made to the facility. The building also served as Kent State University's Geauga Campus until 2012. The structure has remained unoccupied since.

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