Demolition permit gets CAC blessing
Clintonville Area Commission members voted unanimously last week to approve a demolition permit for a series of structures along North High Street that once housed a thriving appliance business, a dance studio and an historic theater.
In voting to allow owner Phillip W. Karshner to tear down the Clintonville Electric building, commission members noted that the demolition request would go into effect on Aug. 23 regardless of their actions and that it would remain valid for six months or more. They said that would give preservationists time to try to come up with a plan for saving the Clinton Theater portion of the structure.
Karshner, who attended the commission's monthly meeting, said he was willing to enter into "meaningful negotiations" with those interested in preserving the movie house. But, he added, "I'm working on a very short time frame."
Karshner, stepson of the man who founded Clintonville Electric in 1939, was under a court-imposed deadline of July 31 to correct numerous code violations at the series of conjoined structures on the west side of High Street just south of North Broadway. He faces fines of between $50 and $250 a day, which District 9 commission representative Sarah Snyder said could be retroactive to July 31.
The demolition permit covers 3377-3383 N. High St., 3367 N. High St. and 3369 N. High St.
It does not include the southernmost structure, which is owned by someone else, District 3 representative James R. Blazer II pointed out.
The permit remains in effect for six months and can be renewed for an additional six months, according to Snyder.
The commission vote came in spite of a plea from Kathy Mast Kane, executive director of the Columbus Landmarks Foundation, to hold off. She asked for additional time to determine if some new use of the theater portion of the structures is even feasible, something that's been on the foundation's radar for the entire three years Kane has been at its helm.
"We're working hard to find a solution," Kane said.
A structural assessment, funded by a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation with matching private dollars, is to be conducted of the old movie theater this week, Kane said.
Karshner had given his blessing to having the assessment undertaken, according to Kane.
"It's not down until it's down," the foundation official said.
Kane did not say how much the grant was for and, when asked by District 9 commission member D Searcy, said she was not at liberty to disclose the source of the private matching money.
Snyder, in whose district the Clintonville Electric building is located, gave a report prior to the commission vote in which she said she had received numerous telephone calls and e-mails regarding the structure. While some have called for preserving the theater, which opened on New Year's Day in 1927, the majority of her constituents support demolition, Snyder said.
The term "blighted" was used in discussions about the graffiti-marred series of buildings, she said.
Brighton Road resident Eric Marotta, noting that Karshner would have the right to tear down the buildings within scant days anyway, called on commission members to approve the permit. Doing so, he said, would mean the community welcomes development and embraces change. Voting no, Marotta added, would send the signal that "Clintonville is a difficult place to do development."
Clintonville Area Chamber of Commerce official Joe Patchen likewise urged approval of the demolition. He called the buildings a "hulk standing in the way of development on North High Street."
Patchen echoed Marotta's statement, saying that blocking the permit, even temporarily, would send the wrong message to potential developers of the site.
"The longer this shadow is cast over High Street, the longer we'll see retarded development for the community," he said.