October 20, 2014

Elyria
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Council wary of donated building

ELYRIA — Elyria Council members are trying to decide whether the city should accept a 200,000-square-foot building that a philanthropic organization has offered to hand over, though a stipulation that the facility be used for youth programs over the next decade has some on Council concerned.

Nordson Corporation Foundation has offered to give the city a $400,000 building that sits at the corner of Oberlin-Elyria Road and Middle Avenue, but city officials must agree to use the building strictly for services that will benefit local youth. 

CARL SULLEN BERG / CHRONICLE
The Nordson Corporation Foundation wants to donate this building.

“We would not like to see the building used as a storage facility,” said Cecilia Render, director at Nordson Corporation Foundation.
As long as it’s outfitted appropriately, it could be used for youth services.”

In past years. the building housed a youth center run by Lorain-based Community Impact Organization, but it’s been more than a year since that organization pulled up shop, taking with it the various furnishings and amenities that had attracted area youngsters.

“The building is in good shape,” Render said. “It’s down to bare bones right now. When Community Impact moved out, they took the interior furnishings with them.”

Render said Nordson owned the building while Community Impact was a tenant, but foundation officials decided that being a landlord didn’t jive with the foundation’s philanthropic goals.

“Nordson is not in the habit of being a landlord,” Render said. “We want to give (the building) to an entity that can handle all those kinds of things.”

Render said Nordson began talking to city officials a year ago in hopes of arranging a deal that could put the building in the city’s hands, but the city suggested using parts of the building as a storage facility.

Render said South Elyria is an area Nordson Foundation is interested in improving.

“That’s an area we’ve been involved in over the years,” Render said. “There doesn’t seem to be a lot for the students in that area to do.”

Elyria Mayor Bill Grace said acquiring the building as a gift and agreeing to use it strictly for youth organizations — the Lorain County Boys and Girls Club has expressed an interest — could be a great opportunity.

“Let’s not lose sight of the fact that we’re being offered a valuable building that can provide services that will help that neighborhood,” Grace said, adding that it will provide a permanent base for community groups.

But when the plan to donate the building to the city was pitched to Council members at Monday’s meeting, some on Council paused at the proposition.

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” Councilman Garry Gibbs said Tuesday.

Gibbs said the plan would effectively burden the city with utility bills and repair costs whenever the building became vacant, and some estimated the annual utility costs could reach more than $20,000.

Grace said the building could be winterized and the utility costs vastly reduced.

The city would retain full ownership and use of the building after 10 years, but if the city deviated from the building’s intended purpose as a youth services mecca, ownership would revert back to Nordson Foundation, Render said.

Gibbs said his Council colleagues seem split on the issue, and they only gave it a first reading at Monday’s meeting. Grace said it’s possible Council could make a decision at its next meeting on Nov. 5. 

Contact Shawn Foucher at (440) 653-6255 or sfoucher@chroniclet.com.