REGISTER VIEWPOINT: Many things worth saving, but not Keller Building

Heritage Ohio, a state partner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and city officials have recommended the preservation
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

Heritage Ohio, a state partner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and city officials have recommended the preservation and redevelopment of the city-owned Keller Building in Sandusky.

Their first purchase toward that goal should be a full case of rose-colored glasses.

The Keller Building has not been anything but an eyesore for years -- 60,000 square feet of wasted space. In the 1990s, former city building official Ron Schnurr warned the city if roof damage wasn't attended to the building was headed for its last stand.

Ed Feick, a former city commissioner and Erie County Engineer -- and a man who knows something about old buildings in Sandusky -- was interested in renovating the building, but he concluded it was not cost-effective -- in 2002.

Several years ago, Chief Building Official George Poulos said the building posed a threat to life safety and recommended it be demolished before winter 2006. At that time, former City Manager Mike Will said to even repair the roof and shore up the building would cost more than demolition.

Keller Building supporter Bob Haag asked commissioners for a little time to see if an alternative to demolition could be found -- in 2006.

As early as 1995 when part of the chimney collapsed, questions were raised about the viability of the 100-year-old structure. Then-city manager Rick Finn said the window for demolition was less than two years.

Even Tom Wolf of the Ohio Historical Society said historical buildings cannot always be saved.

In August 2006, commissioners voted to demolish the building before someone gets hurt.

So much for due diligence.

With a nod to historic preservationists' contribution to aging cities, we think this is one they have to let go. Their efforts to pay homage to the past have saved many beautiful buildings and preserved the character of communities. But you can't save every old building.

When the costs of preservation are exorbitant, the chance of recouping those costs from eventual occupants are low -- a risky investment at best, a doomed-to-fail investment at worst.

Sandusky must also consider the marketability of the building. The Chesapeake redevelopment and superior top-floor views on the north are diluted by the proximity to a factory area and the less-upscale Water Street neighborhood to the south.

There isn't a redevelopment plan or a developer in place for this structure. Not only is the building a current drain on local tax dollars (no taxes being generated), but those favoring renovation hope to use grant money (even more tax dollars) to aid the aforementioned non-existent redevelopment plan.

The Keller Building is an icon of the downtown's decay, just like the Rieger, and is a road block for development in that area of the city.

The city bought the building in hopes of aiding the Paper District development. As the owner, the city is liable for injury or damage to property the crumbling building may inflict on passers-by. Sandusky firefighters have labeled the building unsafe to enter.

All good things must come to an end. Even all mediocre things must come to an end. It's time for the

Keller Building to go.