Keller Building proposal knocked down

City commissioners say ‘no’ to last-ditch effort to save it from wrecking ball.
Andy Ouriel
Dec 30, 2013
Sandusky city commissioners collectively squashed a last-ditch effort from a private developer to salvage the Keller Building.

Steve Coon, president of an Ohio-based restoration company, recently begged officials during a recent public meeting to not tear down the West Shoreline Drive structure as planned.

Coon guaranteed he could obtain state historic tax credits to transform the blighted building into a 48-unit apartment complex — a project valued at $12 million to $14 million.

He also vowed to immediately fix any safety concerns the property poses today.

But the dream proposal came a tad too late.

In October, city commissioners signed a contract with an Independence-based excavating company to demolish the Keller Building.    

The $448,500 binding deal includes workers removing asbestos so they can eventually tear down the building sometime in 2014.

At a glance
• Sandusky city commissioners rejected a proposal from a private developer to save the Keller Building and transform the structure into apartments.
• City officials already signed a contract to demolish the blighted building sometime in 2014.
• Officials feared a lawsuit or some other financial fallout would result from breaching the demolition contract.

Sandusky law director Don Icsman urged commissioners to not breach the demolition contract, fearing it would either create a lawsuit or some other financial fallout.

“We’re not in the eleventh hour,” Icsman said. “It’s about 3 o’clock, and we have a contract. We’re in the middle of a contract. What’s the financial consequences of stopping that contract?”

Commissioner-elect Dennis Murray Jr. appreciated Coon’s gesture to spur economic development in Sandusky but raised numerous concerns with his proposal.

Among the red flags: Coon wanted $400,000 in city funds plus ownership of the building. Sandusky owns the Keller Building property.

“This public is ready for this building to come down,” Murray said. “But I think the public would be supportive of giving you the shot that you asked for if and only if you make us whole”

Murray, a partner in the Sandusky-based Murray & Murray law firm, wanted Coon to:

• Pay for any extra costs Sandusky would incur if it breached the demolition contract.

• Tear down the building at his expense if the revitalization project fails.

• Ensure progress on the Keller Building — be it demolition or revitalization — occurs one year from now.

Coon couldn’t agree to those stipulations, so Murray didn’t agree to his deal.

“You will not sign the contract that I would require and the terms I agree,” Murray said. “It’s just too late at this point”

Commissioner-elect Naomi Twine echoed statements made by Murray and Icsman.

“The more Mr. Icsman talks, the more I get a pit in my stomach,” Twine said. “This is not right for the community. We already made a decision”

Commissioner Pervis Brown, serving his final city meeting because of term limits, insisted his fellow board members follow the demolition contract commissioners signed together.

“We as a commission made a decision, and we hired people in a contract we have,” Brown said. “We have to honor that or our name is mud. We can’t be a city that enters into something and then halfway into it change our minds”

Commissioner Julie Farrar liked Coon’s plan, but the gamble — when accounting for a possible lawsuit and other related costs — seems to risky right now.

“I keep hearing ‘cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching,’” Farrar said. “It’s too late right now. There are too many ‘what ifs.’ I can’t in good conscious move forward with this”

No official vote occurred on Dec. 23.

Rather, based on commissioners verbally scrutinizing Coon’s proposal, it’s likely the Keller Building will be brought down in 2014.

Coon seemed disheartened by his proposal getting slammed.

“These projects die seven or eight deaths before they come to light” said Coon, who’s done similar projects with blighted properties in numerous cities. “It would be a shame for that building to come down”

Funding the Keller Building’s demise
The Keller Building’s demolition cost and related environmental work is estimated at $550,000.
 
A bond would cover $400,000 with city funds covering the remaining $150,000. Earlier this year, 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 for a preliminary demolition plan. This doesn’t includes tens of thousands of dollars in the past several years for various upkeep.
 
Pre-demolition work is occurring now.
 
The building should come down sometime in 2014. Commissioners finally decided to tear the building down this past fall based on its unstable nature.
 
Concerns about safety risks peaked in February 2012, when a brick feel from the building’s chimney and plummeted several stories onto West Shoreline Drive.

Comments

BDupler

Some people in Sandusky need to realize that the glory days of the 1930's to 1960's are over. These buildings will never be what they once were. Instead we need to look to the future, not the past.

The Bizness

If I were one of the city decision makers right now, I would offer the property to the developer after the building comes down, with some tax abatement and among other things, and have him gaurantee he will build a mixed commercial/residential LEED certified complex.

DEATHnTAXES

@ The Bizness

Changed your tune from earlier post. What happened to putting a lien on the property?

What's the dif if he tears it down or rebuilds from scratch? If he thinks he can fix it as it now stands, why would you want him to tear it down. As the developer put it---why would Sandusky want to look like "Anywhere USA" when there is a chance he can save a building built with Sandusky and Erie County stone.

The Bizness

The Lein is still a good idea IMHO, but I thought for the last two years that the building should come down. A new building could be even more unique than, that stone one.

T. A. Schwanger

Months ago, Save Our Shoreline Parks recommended the City preserve and recycle the Keller Building sandstone doorways and arches for use at the two designed public plazas (2010) adjacent to the Chesapeake Lofts (Northwest and Southeast corners) as a way to pay tribute to the Keller Building and it's history. The idea was to create a maintenance free public sitting area similar to the one found outside the Sandusky Greenhouse. The idea was supported by the Bayfront Corridor Committee and informal support from the Sandusky Old House Guild if demolition of the Keller Building was imminent

The only response we received was "thanks for the input" from the City Manager. No further discussion.

The creation of the Paper District/Chesapeake Public Plazas are part of the Tax Increment Financing agreement with the Sandusky School Board and were part of the Ohio DRN and US Army Corp of Engineers permitting process for the Paper District Marina. A steering committee was formed using members from the Bayfront Corridor Committee and Chesapeake Lofts residents for the purpose of discussion and brainstorming plaza ideas.

Nemesis

Tim, is there some point to repeating yourself like this?

deertracker

Knock it down and move on!

The Bizness

Yup!

Train

OMG! I actually agree with deerpacker for once!

BabyMomma

Fudgetracker

From the Grave

Nice little spot for a grave yard, or maybe an ice skating rink.

SKULLNBONES

When they took the plywood off the windows to prep for demolition, you could see that the roof had caved in and floors had been destroyed. The building is way beyond rehabilitation. It is a nice location for a NEW building. Sandusky needs to look to the future!

whattheBucks

The only thing better would be to have myle Cyrus sitting on the wrecking ball when it hits the building

DEATHnTAXES

Or the City Manager

T. A. Schwanger

Months ago, Save Our Shoreline Parks recommended the City preserve and recycle the Keller Building sandstone doorways and arches for use at the two designed public plazas (2010) adjacent to the Chesapeake Lofts (Northwest and Southeast corners) as a way to pay tribute to the Keller Building and it's history. The idea was to create a maintenance free public sitting area similar to the one found outside the Sandusky Greenhouse. The idea was supported by the Bayfront Corridor Committee and informal support from the Sandusky Old House Guild if demolition of the Keller Building was imminent

The only response we received was "thanks for the input" from the City Manager. No further discussion. Not even at the City Commission table.

The creation of the Paper District/Chesapeake Public Plazas are part of the Tax Increment Financing agreement with the Sandusky School Board and were part of the Ohio DRN and US Army Corp of Engineers permitting process for the Paper District Marina. A steering committee was formed using members from the Bayfront Corridor Committee and Chesapeake Lofts residents for the purpose of discussion and brainstorming plaza ideas.

Nemesis

This is a copy and paste of your comment on Sharon's column. It's relevant there, but what's your point here?