The owner of the former East Junior High School expressed a desire Friday to see the property be redeveloped, possibly into a Seneca County justice center, preserving the building and serving as a catalyst for continued downtown revitalization.
Andrew Kalnow, chairman and CEO of National Machinery LLC, announced Friday he owns East Tower LLC, which owns the vacant school building at the southeast corner of East Market and Jefferson streets.
"I am pleased to announce that a meaningful step has been taken toward possible revitalization of downtown Tiffin with the formation of East Tower LLC and, more importantly, its ownership of the former East Junior High School building ," Kalnow stated in the release.
"Built in 1893 as the original Columbian High School when Tiffin was a boom town in the late 19th century, the edifice is an architectural masterpiece," Kalnow stated. "Now owned by East Tower LLC, which is in turn owned by me personally, the property is ready to be restored and developed as part of a hoped-for greater revitalization of downtown Tiffin."
The letter also noted discussions regarding a new justice center for common pleas and municipal courts in Seneca County have focused on using the downtown Courthouse Square, where the 1884 courthouse stood.
"I would hope that our elected officials ... take seriously the East Tower as a viable alternative for a new justice center," Kalnow stated. "Together, we can make this possible. Together, we can make it a resounding win-win."
Seneca County Commissioner Fred Zoeller said Friday the commissioners have looked into using the former East Junior High School as a justice center, but the idea was tossed aside after the building did not meet three factors.
"We did look at that as an option, but it quickly didn't make the cut," Zoeller said.
Zoeller said using the building would not solve the county's issue of having separate security for separate buildings, and there also would not be sufficient space to incorporate city and county services.
The Annex building, which sets next to the vacant property where the shared justice center facility has been proposed to be built, also has sufficient electricity and HVAC to support a new, adjoining building, Zoeller said.
"That's why the East Junior High building didn't even make the first cut," Zoeller said of the three factors.
Zoeller said a feasibility study released earlier this month examined several sites, including the former East building, as options.
The best option, according to the study, would be to build a shared justice center at Courthouse Square due to its central location and its ability to be connected to the Annex building.
Zoeller said if Kalnow feels there's sufficient merit to turning the former East building into the justice center, and if Kalnow wants to provide another feasibility study regarding the renovation of the building, then he would be "all for it."
The bulk of Kalnow's letter, released Friday, emphasized the Kalnow family's ties to Tiffin and the growth and contraction of the local economy. ?"National Machinery and the Frost-Kalnow family have had a long history of community support and involvement. As a global leader in its industry, National Machinery has proudly maintained its world headquarters in Tiffin for well over a century," Kalnow stated. "Contributing to our success over the years has been the quality of workforce in the Seneca County area, and the simple fact that Tiffin is a desirable place to live for many of our employees."?"Unfortunately, Tiffin has had various setbacks over recent decades, ranging from the closure of factories and businesses to shrinking population and fiscal stress, as well as our own dose of drug problems that have spread across much of America. Adding to these issues is a less-than-vibrant downtown, with too many empty buildings and threats to the town's historical architecture, heritage and beauty."?Now, the release states, Tiffin could be on the verge of a renaissance. Manufacturers are expanding, the universities are growing, and economic development groups and elected officials are working together.?"Lastly, I feel a large host of people in Tiffin and Seneca County continues to exhibit a deep passion for our town," Kalnow stated. "They want to see a revitalization that might spring into a further renaissance of the community as an even better place to live and work."?The release noted a variety of possibilities may exist for developing the East building.?"At the end of the day, National Machinery and I are pledged to help make Tiffin an even better place to live and work," the letter concludes. "I wish to contribute the East Tower as a key ingredient to the mix. The crux is to harness citizens' combined passion for Tiffin into a path of progress. The prominent and historical East Tower can now serve as a cornerstone for a revitalized downtown."