Twinsburg -- While the future of the Old School on Route 91 looks bleak, the old Township Hall on Ravenna Road may be given new life under the auspices of the city.
Following a spirited discussion on the future of the "Old School" at 8897 Darrow Road, Council voted Feb. 12 to purchase the former Township Hall from Twinsburg Township for $210,000. The city plans to move both the Twinsburg Community Theatre, currently housed in the Old School, and some of its Parks and Recreation Department equipment from one facility to the other.
Twinsburg Township Trustees still need to approve the purchase of the 6,100-square-foot facility at 9833 Ravenna Road, and were set to address the matter at their Feb. 20 meeting, Trustee Tom Schmidt said.
"I'm enthused that [the city] put an offer in for the building because it has just been sitting [vacant] there ... to see the city be able to use it for positive things in the community, that's a good use for the building and I would be glad to see that," Schmidt said.
Mayor Katherine Procop said concern for the relocation of the Twinsburg Community Theatre played into the city's decision to purchase the facility.
Schmidt added there are township residents involved in the community theater, so township residents would benefit from the city owning the former Township Hall as well.
"[The Twinsburg Community Theatre] has been a big part of our community for many years," Procop said. "We certainly do not want to see its demise. We have been searching for an alternate place for it for several years. When we found out the township was selling this building right on the Square ... we immediately thought this would be a great place to relocate the Twinsburg Community Theatre."
The former Township Hall would be used as storage and practice space for the Twinsburg Community Theatre as well as storage for Twinsburg Parks and Recreation Department equipment, according to Procop.
The 29,000-square-foot Old School, owned by the city, would likely be demolished after the group relocates, city officials have said. Both Procop and Planning and Development Director Larry Finch have said the building is dilapidated and would require between $4 million to $8 million in cleanup and renovations to bring it up to code.
Though no official decision to demolish the building has been made, city officials agree the building has reached the end of its useful life.
"We haven't gotten a cost to tear it down, we're trying to get all the information before that decision is totally made," Finch said. "Just based on what we're seeing in terms of renovation cost alone, it would be difficult to justify [refurbishing the building]."
Asbestos contamination concerns, antiquated plumbing and heating systems and leaky ceilings are just a few of the issues with the Old School, Finch said.
"It's a really difficult thing to retrofit a building like that," Procop said. "We have spent a lot of time analyzing it, we didn't just make a rash decision, but I am of the mindset that it needs to be demolished. It's beyond its use. We have the original boiler in the basement that is still heating this thing."
Twinsburg resident and community theater member Michael Turle addressed Council during its Feb. 12 meeting, saying he disagreed with condemning the Old School and moving the theater group to the former Township Hall.
"Yet another piece of our history will be gone," Turle said. "This building has served many and has recently become a de facto home to the Twinsburg Community Theatre. I've attended rehearsals in the Old School for the past three months and it was amazing to see the life in this building. As a lifelong Twinsburg resident of 47 years, I see this issue as being about more than just some old building. It's about Twinsburg's past, Twinsburg's present and Twinsburg's future."
Serving the city for nearly a century as a school, museum for Victorian-era baby carriages, a hub for continuing education for auto workers, and as community theater practice space, the Old School, now more than 90 years old, is considered by many to be a Twinsburg landmark.
Turle advocated renovating the Old School and using it as a hub of community activities and fine arts practice.
"It could be a fine arts building, the theater group could have a permanent home in there," Turle said. "We could have classes for art instruction, for vocal, instrumental music. We could have wood, clay, pottery classes there. There's a bunch of different things that could be done with this. It just requires some vision, it requires some hard work but most of all, it requires desire."
Procop reiterated that refurbishing the building would not be financially prudent.
"This building is basically beyond repair unless somebody's going to go in there and do it properly and put that $8 million into it," Procop said.
"That's all we're asking," Turle responded.