A plan to build a 3 1/2-story, 18-unit condominium complex on the site of the old Columbus Maennerchor building has come up against resistance.
Representatives of both the German Village Society and the Columbus Landmarks Foundation are urging Brewery District Commission members to not allow the destruction of the original Maennerchor building at 966 S. High St., which has been vacant since 2010.
Officials with the Maennerchor are pushing back, saying there is nothing of historic value in the building.
Anything of worth was removed and saved or sold at auction eight years ago when the German singing society shuttered the building for good.
"Everything was taken out that you could call 'historic' Maennerchor," said Werner Niehaus, president of the singing society.
The remaining 6,000 square feet of the building, now owned by Columbus City Schools, has been damaged by weather and neglect, leaving a shell not worth salvaging, said Michael Knilans, director of mrketing and media for the Maennerchor.
Architects have estimated it would cost $1.3 to $1.4 million to renovate the building.
"It doesn't make any financial sense to do that," Knilans said.
Galbreath Properties of Dublin, with the Columbus Maennerchor a minority partner, wants to build the condos, and Maennerchor membership wants to add 2,200 square feet to create more rehearsal space directly north of the German Heritage House, its headquarters at 976 S. High St.
The old Maennerchor site is owned by the Columbus City Schools district. In a contingency agreement, the property would be sold to Galbreath and the Maennerchor pending the approval of the Brewery District Commission.
Both Knilans and Niehaus said they expect the Brewery District Commission to vote on the matter in early April.
They said they see themselves trying to preserve the history of the Columbus Maennerchor, founded in 1848, by creating a new building that will carry on the culture and history of the singing society.
Preservationists, however, see the situation in a different way.
In a rare move, the German Village Society took a position on a property outside of its own boundaries.
Nancy Kotting, the society's historic preservation advocate, wrote a letter to the Brewery District Commission, outlining the society's concerns about the proposed development.
"Based on our analysis of the historical research on the building, the historical context within which it resides in the Brewery District, immediately adjacent to the German Village historic district, the satisfactory physical condition of the structure at this point in time, and the proposal as submitted for new construction, a proposal that clearly defies the applicable standards, the German Village Society is opposed to the demolition of the Maennerchor building," Kotting wrote.
"We respectfully request the commission abide by the applicable city codes, abide by your duties and purpose as a commission, and deny this application for demolition."
Becky West, executive director of the Columbus Landmarks Foundation, said the Maennerchor building "represents the community heritage."
"I do believe there are potentially other developers who would reuse it and make it work," West said.
"We are excited about redevelopment of the site, but we do want reuse of the building," West said.