Beau Dusz
Ohio.com correspondent


What is to be the fate of 138 High Street when the Wadsworth Center for Older Adults moves to its new location at 617 School Drive in January?



City officials are now discussing this issue. A nutrition site opened in 1979 by the Medina County Commissioners through the Medina County Adults is expected to occupy the lower level of the building until May. The top two floors will become vacant when the Center for Older Adults moves out early next year. The 80-year-old building has been the home of the Center for Older Adults for nearly four decades.



The Center, which will be known as the Soprema Senior Center and Cafe, will move to its new quarters as part of a new 70,000 square foot community center. Soprema contributed $160,000 to earn the naming rights for the new center.



Service Director Chris Easton told City Council's Committee of the Whole at its November 20 meeting the building was valued at $184,000 a few years ago. He estimated it would cost $100,000 to have it torn down. Easton noted the structure has asbestos and is a compound structure built like a parking deck.



Council member Beth Workman said the building was not on the registry for historic buildings, but it could qualify. Easton said if it were eligible for the registry, federal grants probably could not be used to tear it down.



Workman explained a tenant in a nearby building was looking for a drive-through area. Easton said Workman was referring to the business, which wanted to put a drive-through on the right side of the building. He explained it would be easier to put the drive-through in if the building at 138 High Street were not there.



Councilman John Sharkey said he had talked with the owners of the property next door to the building. He said he could not see paying $180,000 for the building and then pay $100,000 to tear it down for 20 parking spaces. Sharkey pointed out the city needed to encourage businesses to stay downtown instead of driving them away.



In response to a question from Workman concerning the cost of upkeep for the building, Easton explained the biggest cost each year was the natural gas bill. He stated maintenance was under $50,000 yearly with the gas bill.



Easton said it would be nice to have the building for a commercial use to generate income. The first thing, which had to be determined, Easton noted, was if it were needed by the city. If it were not needed, the city could take bids at or above a minimum price.



Law Director Norman Brague cautioned that the city did not want to get into the situation in which some southern Ohio school districts had gotten into. According to Brague, the districts had vacant buildings, which were sold to the highest bidder but the bidder had gone bankrupt or became insolvent and the building had become a huge nuisance.



Council member Bruce Darlington recommended putting some feelers out to see what bids would be offered for the first part of 2013.



Sharkey noted the Public Ways Committee had asked Assistant Service Director Harry Stark to start the process of deciding what to do with the building. Committee chairperson Susan Hanlon said it would be a goal of the committee for next year.



Easton said development ideas for the property could be presented to City Council's Economic Development Committee, which then will go the council's Committee of the Whole.