Battle to preserve Clinton Annex on its last legs

Permit to raze historic school building could be issued in April


Mary Rodgers, president of the Clintonville Historical Society and a member of the committee seeking to preserve the Clinton Annex, admitted at last week's area commission session that the clock is ticking toward its likely destruction.

"We're running out of time," she said. "Bulldozers will be coming.

"We're looking for some direction."

She didn't get any, other than assurance from Clintonville Area Commission Chairman Daniel B. Miller that the issue would be an agenda item at the April meeting.

It is likely, Rodgers said at the outset of her report, that the next monthly meeting also will be the one at which a request for a demolition permit from Columbus is issued. The Columbus school board approved such a permit in mid-December.

Meanwhile, members of the University Area Commission have weighed in on the issue, urging school board President Gary L. Baker not to tear down the historic structure, which was Clinton Township's first school.

"Given its service to North Columbus for almost 100 years, the commission believes that demolishing the Clinton Annex would be a rash and shortsighted decision, and a source of regret for the entire community," a Feb. 26 letter from the UAC stated.

The Clintonville Area Commission appointed the Clinton Annex committee in July 2013 to explore ways of preserving the building, which sits on the campus of Clinton Elementary School on Clinton Heights Avenue.

By August, Rodgers said last week, committee members had decided the creation of a children's center for after-school programming was the best means for doing so. She added that committee members felt it would cost around $300,000 to make the needed improvements to the structure.

Subsequently, committee members have learned that Clinton Elementary School is approaching and may soon surpass its student capacity, raising the possibility that district officials might have to use the old schoolhouse for overflow classroom space, Rodgers said.

"Our job was to look at reuse, which means something other than a school," she said. "I'm not sure what our committee can continue to accomplish at this time."

Rodgers also said committee members have been stymied in attempting to garner support of the Clinton Elementary School's PTA for the preservation of the Annex.

She said the elected officers of the PTA opted not to have committee members make their case to the full membership.

Also at last week's meeting, CAC members signed off on two possible locations for planted medians: one along North High Street between Orchard Lane and Dunedin Road and the other on Indianola Avenue between Milford and Melrose avenues. The medians, if further feasibility studies show they can be built, would be constructed using Urban Infrastructure Recovery Fund dollars, city UIRF Program Manager Mark C. Dravillas said.

"That doesn't mean it's a done deal," he said, adding that potential safety concerns or other factors might scotch using $300,000 for the projects.

Dravillas also said community organizations would have to agree to maintain the plantings and take out insurance on the medians. Lower Olentangy Urban Arboretum members have agreed to take on the Indianola Avenue one, but the North High Street location is still in need of such sponsorship, Dravillas said.

Jeff Anderson of Columbus Recreation and Parks provided a brief report on the planned replacement of equipment in the lower playground at Whetstone Park. The project would remove the large sand area there and replace it with playground mulch, he said, along with new play equipment geared toward children ages 2-5.

"This is for the little guys," Anderson said.

The project, part of an eight-park package of playground equipment, should go out to bid in April, but it might be a year before Whetstone Park receives its new items.