Opening Our Eyes to Preservation and Vision
Vision. It’s key to any city’s successful revitalization. And when it comes on the heels of a travesty — especially the kind that befell the 1884 Seneca County Courthouse two years ago — vision can be paramount to a city’s healing.
Yesterday, Tiffin native Andrew Kalnow announced his desire for officials from Tiffin and Seneca County to consider transforming the former East Junior High School building, on the corner of East Market and Jefferson streets, into the proposed joint justice center.
Mr. Kalnow — who is chairman and CEO of National Machinery LLC — has owned the building since 2012. It is listed as East Tower LLC.
Here’s where the vision comes in. The former East Junior High is a distinctive piece of architecture with a lot of character. It was built in 1893, less than a decade after the courthouse was constructed. Anyone who witnessed the demolition of the latter saw first-hand how sturdy that structure was, and it’s evident that the junior high was built with the same materials and craftsmanship that are not found in today’s new construction. In fact, buildings erected nowadays have an average 40-year lifespan.
Mr. Kalnow’s idea is a fine mix of vision and preservation. And judging from the $8.5 million price tag affixed to the brand new justice center that’s being proposed on Courthouse Square, a renovation of East Junior High would likely be considerably more cost-effective. Of course, the county and city are not going to pay for another study to determine that, so those funds will have to be provided from private sources.
The good thing is that both Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz and Seneca County Commissioner Fred Zoeller told the Toledo Blade they are open to learning more about the idea. At least they’re willing to listen. That’s more than we can say about the two commissioners who started this mess in the first place when they chose to demolish the old courthouse — the centerpiece of Tiffin’s downtown historic district.
It’s time the citizens weighed in on this topic. Your voice was ignored in the past. Don’t let that happen again. I will continue to post questions and insights about the justice center, gleaned from the recent Burgess & Niple feasibility study as well as developments with the East Junior High building. Your response is of utmost importance. It is your chance to make a difference. I will continue to ensure the responses are seen by the people who are at the forefront of this project.
There are so many advantages to Mr. Kalnow’s proposed plan. Now we need to open our collective eyes and support the vision.