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Eyesore No More

February 15, 2022

It was a question asked for far too long: when would the abandoned warehouse on Elm Street be torn down?

For the family of young Cindy Sumner, whose body was found in the building after her tragic murder in 2009, the property is an enduring symbol of the horror that befell their family. Seeing it as part of the north Toledo skyline brought those awful memories back time and again.

The building wasn't always associated with such woe. Built in 1915 by the Sam Davis Company, the six-floor warehouse was the headquarters of one of Toledo's largest home coal dealers. Mr. Davis - who made his fortune in energy and real estate - is known for developing other signature sites in Toledo, including the Ann Manor condominium complex in the Old West End neighborhood, which he named after his wife.

But the days when the warehouse was active and productive had passed. Now, it was a shell of its former self, with dozens of broken windows, empty rooms, and asbestos contamination throughout.

It had to go.

Thankfully, leaders at the federal, state, and local level have made cleaning-up these brownfield sites a new priority. The Northwest Ohio legislative delegation, led by State Representative Derek Merrin, sponsored the Lucas County Commercial Site Clean-up Pilot Program, which provides the Land Bank with $2 million of matching funds to tackle buildings like the warehouse on Elm Street through 2024.

“It’s exciting to see this program take off by removing this long-standing nuisance property on Elm Street. This state and local partnership is already paying dividends,” Merrin said.

With the help of U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur, the City of Toledo will also direct $6 million of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds toward brownfield remediation, including the matching funds needed for this project. The recent announcement at the Elm Street warehouse also served as the beginning of Toledo's Demolition Program to address other blighted commercial and industrial structures throughout the city.

“In order to remain economically competitive, we must continue to prepare sites for redevelopment and remove these blighted structures from our neighborhoods,” said Brandon Sehlhorst, Director of Economic Development for the City of Toledo.

Finally, the Land Bank has applied to the State of Ohio's Brownfield Remediation Program to assist with the cost of abating the asbestos contamination.

All told, the clean-up and demolition of the Elm Street warehouse is expected to cost $750,000. It's that six-figure expense that has held back efforts to remove this property - and many others - in the past.

But it won't be the last. Like the City of Toledo, the Land Bank is committed to leveraging every dollar possible to clean-up and demolish other abandoned and blighted properties that have plagued our neighborhoods and held back opportunities for growth and redevelopment.

By working together at all levels of government, this eyesore will be no more and brighter days are truly ahead.