TWINSBURG — The Old School may be closer to a memory as city officials are seeking bids for its demolition, with those bids scheduled to be opened Sept. 29.

Contractors must submit bids by 9 a.m. that day. A prebid meeting is set for Sept. 18 at 10 a.m.

The most recent engineer’s estimate for asbestos mitigation, demolition, sanitary sewer demolition and site restoration is $600,000. Once bids are opened, City Council must decide whether it wants to proceed with the demolition.

Contractors can obtain plans, specifications and bid blanks at City Hall. A non-refundable deposit of $20 is required by the city engineer, and checks must be made payable to the city of Twinsburg.

Although the Committee to Save the Old School has tried to get the building placed on the National Register of Historic Places, City Council voted unanimously in March to seek demolition estimates. 

City officials are hoping to target the 16-acre site, plus a 24-acre area around Twinsburg Township Square and the Town Center Plaza, for redevelopment.

The combined 40 acres would include a pedestrian friendly downtown area featuring mixed-use zoning and architecture with "uniquely Twinsburg" aesthetics.

"If Council decides to go ahead with the project, work could begin by the end of the year," said Director of Planning and Community Development Larry Finch, adding there is no part of the project that would be hindered by winter weather.

Finch said taking down the building would pave the way for redeveloping the site. 

"It’s my job to stimulate investment in the city, and leaving the building standing would prevent anything from happening there," he said.

He noted there are few options for the building to be used for a public purpose, and there would be several issues facing the city if it was repurposed privately.

Finch said a part of the work in the bid specifications calls for the sandstone archway at the front of the building to be preserved and incorporated into the redevelopment project. 

Earlier this year, the city received a $25,000 grant through the Summit County Land Reutilization Corp. to be used to clear the property at 8997 Darrow Road, where the Old School sets.

The city also had sought a $200,000 brownfield mitigation grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help with asbestos removal, but Finch said the city did not rank high enough to be awarded the money. 

"Unfortunately with a small project like this, we didn’t make enough impact to warrant a grant," he told City Council at a meeting in June.

City officials have said asbestos must be removed regardless of whether the school is torn down.

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

At a City Council meeting in March, At-Large Councilman Bill Furey said he believes the facility is a hindrance to development in the downtown area.

Furey added the city could offset the cost of demolition by selling the property. It has been appraised at between $1.2 million and $1.4 million, and he said if the building is removed the property would be more attractive to a buyer.

The Committee to Save the Old School argues that the building represents a specific and unique heritage in Twinsburg since it sets on the site of the first centralized school and has become an iconic structure through its history and uses.

Some supporters of keeping the school have charged that the city is exercising "demolition by neglect" — failing to maintain it so it can be razed.

The Old School dates back to 1921, and sits on the site of the community’s first centralized school. The original building was destroyed by fire. The current structure was expanded in 1952 and closed as a public school in 1992.

Daimler Chrysler used the building as a United Auto Workers Training Center starting in 1995, and Kent State University occupied it until 2012 as part of its Geauga Campus. The 40,000-square-foot building has been unoccupied since.

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