NORTH ROYALTON – The city is taking a hard look at the old city hall, earnestly determining every option for the fate of this vacant building including demolition, which the mayor recommended during city council’s Dec. 20 meeting.
Since abandoning the building after remodeling and moving into the city-owned, former library site in 2014, the city has been seeking grant funding to preserve the former site, at least in some form, but has been unsuccessful.
After conducting a recent asbestos survey, the administration solicited quotes for the necessary asbestos abatement, which must be done regardless. The first quote has come back under $40,000, Mayor Bob Stefanik told city council. He said it’s now time to discuss what the next step will be and recommended demolition.
“I’d be the first to refurbish the original section, I really would, but it’s just not cost effective. We are getting absolutely no bites for grant funding, and it would cost well over $2 million to refurbish the building. There is a dollar amount to keep heat and electricity running, we can’t just shut it down and forget about it. The fact that the building was constructed on the original foundation from the 1800s and is collapsing is one of the major factors in recommending demolition,” Stefanik said. “Even the wings that were added in the ‘60s are deteriorating and bowing outward.”
He said he is well aware many residents will be upset if demolition is what council decides because the structure was constructed in 1937 on the site of the previous city hall, but Stefanik said anyone who has walked the building knows the historical components are nonexistent.
“City hall has been remodeled and piece milled together so many times that there are few, if any, historical architectural components remaining,” Stefanik said. “The time to refurbish city hall into a quality structure lapsed 30 to 40 years ago. I believe it’s time to restore the site to what it was intended for when the land was donated to the city, and that’s public use.”
An architect has been commissioned to draft preliminary renderings for the creation of a picnic pavilion or structure to be used by residents, complete with restrooms.
Council agrees and many have said the old city hall, though it may look attractive from Ridge Road, is in bad shape, which is why they vacated it rather than sinking dollars into repair.
The HVAC system is outdated and spotty, in fact, the year city hall relocated, the air conditioning system went out completely in one wing. Wallpaper is tearing, carpet unraveling, and there are mold and asbestos issues and a crumbling foundation. To make matters worse, a pipe recently broke in the attached public restrooms and leaked into the old finance department.
Old city hall is situated on the northern end of the City Green, in Ward 4 Councilman Paul Marnecheck’s territory. He agrees demolition and a pavilion is the right move.
“For the past two years, the mayor and the administration have explored every option to try and find a way to save that building. Unfortunately, we must face reality,” he said. “This is the best course of action that, in a way, honors the spirit and legacy of the original donation that the land be used for public good.”
Ward 3 Councilman Dan Langshaw said the mayor’s suggestion aligns with recommendations from the last city master plan regarding improving the character and image of the city.
“When we discuss this issue more in 2017, I will be suggesting that the city considers putting some kind of historical marker near the site of the old city hall so that future generations can learn about its unique history of all the different uses it has had in our city,” he said.
Like his colleagues, Council President Larry Antoskiewicz said it would be wasteful to invest dollars into a building that has no purpose or use.
“Especially when we could take it down and use the space for more practical and helpful ways for residents,” he said. “It all boils down to the beautification process to make this area look more attractive and really make it our centerpiece.”
Council is expected to make a decision sometime in the new year.