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Keller Building: Already gone

Andy Ouriel • Jun 24, 2014 at 9:30 AM


Despite originally protesting its demise, a federal agency backtracked and approved the Keller Building’s end, finally marking a definitive conclusion for this property.

Four months after voicing opposition, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representatives recently agreed the blighted building could come down.

Federal engineers originally hesitated and warned city officials of the possible consequences for wrongfully razing a building. 

Among other criteria, these engineers in February claimed Sandusky officials failed to submit all necessary documentation to the Ohio Historic Preservation Office before demolition started. This included photographs, site plans, sketches and more.

Amid these concerns, city officials still tore down the building on West Shoreline Drive. Demolition began in late 2013 and finished up earlier this month.

But city officials nonetheless cooperated with federal engineers, even after repeatedly contending they took all necessary steps before knocking the Keller Building down. Since February, city officials either submitted all required paperwork or proved they’ve already done so in hopes of satisfying all benchmarks.

Apparently, it worked.

“I have determined that your project is in compliance with all the conditions of the permit,” according to a letter Michael Smith recently wrote to Sandusky engineer Aaron Klein. Smith is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers biologist based in Buffalo, N.Y.

“This correspondence shall serve as written confirmation that you have fulfilled all department of the Army requirements of your project. No further action is necessary at this time," Smith wrote.

The letter excited city officials.

“We responded to every question and every concern they posed,” city commissioner Dick Brady said. “This letter is evidence that we did everything right.”

Before demolition occurred, officials for years attempted to — but never did — sell this property to an entrepreneur, thus salvaging a Sandusky landmark.

But the building apparently became too dangerous to continue standing.

Construction workers and Sandusky staff members frequently mended the feeble building, fortifying deficiencies in and around the structure.

City commissioners fast-tracked demolition after gusting winds caused a brick to dislodge from the foundation in early 2012.

Officials will now promote the property as an ideal space for private investment.

“We need to market it,” Brady said. “If we just allow that to remain as green space, then we really lost our ability to leverage that property and make it something good for everyone in the community.”


At a glance: The Keller Building demolition

• Federal engineers recently approved all work related to tearing down the Keller Building.

• At a cost of about $499,000, city officials just completed tearing down the blighted building.

• City officials will now market the West Shoreline Drive property to anyone interested in buying it.


Funding the Keller Building’s demolition

The Keller Building’s final cost totaled about $499,000, down from an original estimate of $550,000.

A bond covered $400,000 with city funds picking up the remaining costs.

In 2013, city commissioners agreed to borrow up to $2.7 million in bonds to help pay for the Keller Building’s demolition.

In the past, city officials have leveraged those funds to make various improvements in the area, such as:

• Building a public walkway around the Chesapeake Lofts.

• Repairing the area’s emergency break wall.

• Establishing the Paper District Marina. 

In the recent past, city officials have addressed some other Keller Building concerns.

They spent $19,000 in September 2012 to tear down the crumbling chimney and then another $26,000 in April 2013 for a preliminary demolition plan. This doesn’t includes tens of thousands of dollars in the past several years for various upkeep.

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