By Rick Armon
Beacon Journal staff writer
The Humane Society of Greater Akron is scrapping plans to build a headquarters in Cuyahoga Falls and instead will renovate a vacant building in Twinsburg Township.
The nonprofit group announced a deal Tuesday to lease for three years and then buy the former township hall at 7996 Darrow Road, pending the approval of township zoning officials.
The building, owned by the Summit County Port Authority, is 68,000 square feet and has been vacant since the township moved out last year.
Humane society Executive Director Karen Conklin said the building is large enough to offer additional services, such as a pet store, training, kennels and doggie day care.
''There are so many opportunities for us in that space,'' she said.
Port authority President Chris Burnham declined to release the amount of the lease or the purchase price. He said the money paid for the first year of the lease would be applied to the purchase.
Portions of the building also are expected to be subleased to other groups, including the county health department.
The agency currently leases space along Quick Road in Boston Township from the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The lease expires in January and the agency must move as the park returns the property to parkland.
The current facility is crowded and appears run-down.
''You know, shame on us to not have something better for the animals,'' Conklin said.
The humane society had announced plans to build a 25,000-square-foot facility in an industrial park in Cuyahoga Falls, but had trouble last year securing financing for the $7 million project.
''When we went to ink the paper for the financing is when everyone's credit lines tanked,'' Conklin said.
Some donors and volunteers are disappointed that the new building fell through, she said. But she noted that the humane society wanted to build an eco-friendly facility.
''Truthfully, you don't get any greener than not putting a new footprint out there,'' Conklin said.
The group began looking for another site and found the former township hall after seeking help through the port authority.
Conklin expects the move, renovations and purchase of the building to cost less than $5 million. The agency will begin again in earnest raising money for the project, she said.
The humane society already had raised $1.7 million in a capital campaign toward the Cuyahoga Falls site.
One of the negatives of the Twinsburg Township site is that it will be farther from Akron and not centrally located in the county. On the other hand, Conklin said, it's difficult to get to the current facility.
''The trade-off is a high-visibility destination location,'' she said.
The port authority and township are embroiled in a lawsuit over the building. When the township moved out, the port authority contended that a long-term lease had been breached.
The lawsuit isn't affected by the proposed lease to the humane society, Burnham said.
Meanwhile, the county is renovating a former warehouse in Akron just south of downtown to replace its animal control facility on East North Street.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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