Booster

CAC vote puts hold on Clinton Annex's demolition

Packed house pushes to save 105-year-old edifice despite district's decision

By

The demise of the Clinton Annex has been delayed, but almost certainly not denied.

Columbus City Schools officials had hoped to tear down the century-old structure that sits on the grounds of Clinton Elementary School during spring break, April 14-21.

However, proponents for preserving what was once a township school building convinced Clintonville Area Commission members last week to vote against issuing a demolition permit in hopes of a last-minute, Hail Mary intervention.

By 7-0 vote, with D Searcy of District 9 absent and Chairman Daniel B. Miller abstaining, commission members rejected waiving a 60-day waiting period for the project.

That clock began ticking Feb. 28 when district representatives applied to the city for the demolition permit. The waiting will be over April 29, but the building probably won't be torn down the following day.

Carole J. Olshavsky, the district's senior executive for capital improvements, was on hand for last week's CAC meeting. She said a contract already had been set for the demolition project, predicated on it getting underway while Clinton Elementary School students were on spring break.

The delay, Olshavsky said, opens the district up to possible claims by the contractor; demolition would have to be held off until after the school year ends.

"The Annex needs to come down to accommodate the students better," Olshavsky told CAC members and a room packed with people in support of preserving the structure.

Olshavsky took some pains during her remarks to refute the latest argument from demolition opponents who maintain the Annex will be needed as overflow classroom space because of an increase in the number of families with young children moving into the neighborhood. Student population growth at Clinton Elementary School is expected to remain relatively flat through 2020, she said.

Nevertheless, Seth Golding of the University Area Commission predicted the elementary school's grounds soon will become a "trailer park on Clinton Heights" when portable classrooms are needed.

"This is the last remaining public building from the last time our community was a village, separate from the city of Columbus," Clintonville Historical Society President Mary Rodgers said.

She added the building "has lived a life and has more life to live."

"It's a historic legacy, not a commodity that we talk about removing because it's convenient," said architect Tim Bass, whose daughter is in kindergarten at Clinton Elementary School.

"It's amazing to me in the United States we tear down just for convenience's sake these beautiful buildings," CAC District 8 representative Kristopher Keller said.

"I just think it would be shortsighted of us to give up on this 105-year-old building," added Randy Ketcham of District 6.

Mary Beth Hirsch, chairwoman of a committee appointed by CAC members to explore ways to save the Annex from the wrecking ball, spoke against allowing immediate demolition so members of her panel, the Clinton Elementary PTA and district representatives can sit down "and work toward a positive resolution."

"That really has not taken place," Hirsch said.

Tearing down the Clinton Annex has been discussed on and off for at least the past 12 years, Olshavsky said. All attempts at finding a viable use for the structure, either in its present location or a different one, have come to naught, she said.

The latest proposal from the committee appointed by the CAC to use it for an after-school and preschool operation was not backed up by a funding plan or any kind of licensed operator stepping forward, Olshavsky said.

She pointed out that no one from the preservation side of the equation bothered to attend the Dec. 17 meeting of the Columbus school board, during which the demolition application was decided.

Comments