August 30, 2014

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Developer plans to make former Avon schoolhouse history

AVON — A one-room schoolhouse where generations of Avon students learned reading, writing and ’rithmetic could soon be razed.

Mayor Jim Smith said Thursday that there’s nothing he can do to save Avon Center School, 35955 Detroit Road,
from demolition.

The 1910 building was purchased in October 2005 by Greg Romes, president of Lake Pointe Construction. Romes said he wants to build a strip shopping center on the 10-acre parcel where the school sits and that he’ll tear it down in 60 to 90 days.

CHUCK HUMEL / CHRONICLE
The former Avon Center School

“We’ve done everything we can do to try to save the schoolhouse, but it just doesn’t work financially,” Romes said.

Romes sent Avon officials an ultimatum Feb. 22 saying he would tear down the school unless the city agreed by March 5 to pay to relocate it. Smith said after the deadline had passed Thursday that the cost would be about $108,000, and there’s no way he can justify spending tax money on private property.

“Expending money for a private concern is not something the city should do. We have senior citizens to take care of and recreation centers and roads to worry about,” Smith said.

Avon Planning Coordinator Jim Piazza said the city is still willing to help Romes find a plan for his shopping center that will allow the schoolhouse to stand.

“We let him know we want to save this property, but right now we just can’t move it. The best place for the schoolhouse is where it’s at. It’s like a monument there,” he said.

Piazza said the city has been embroiled in a court fight with Romes over the rest of that land since 2006, when Council denied his request to rezone 28 acres.

Last spring, officials let him change 12 acres at the intersection of Detroit Road and state Route 83 from residential to commercial.

Want to donate (quickly) to try and relocate Avon Center School? Call Ron Larson at (440) 934-1636.

The Avon Planning Commission recommended another rezoning Feb. 20 — just two days before Romes sent his letter — that would change another 10 acres of the disputed land that Romes’ owns from residential to office use, Piazza said.

Ron Larson, who owns the Old Avon Village on Detroit Road, said he wants to save Avon Center School, but he doesn’t have the cash.

It wouldn’t be the first time he’s rescued a part of Avon’s heritage. So far, Larson has relocated five buildings, including an 1840 barn once owned by original Avon settler George Clifton.

Romes had owned the barn and was going to tear it down, too, Larson said.

Each of those five historical buildings was moved next to the Avon police station and remodeled to house boutique stores and restaurants.

Larson said he struck a deal with Romes in 2007 to move Avon Center School, but Romes told him a few months later that he was going to put a Starbucks coffee shop in the building instead.

So Larson backed off and invested his money in another historical property just down the street called Stone Eagle Farm. It wasn’t until last month that that

Romes told him Starbucks had backed out of the deal and that he was once again looking for someone to take the schoolhouse, he said.

But Larson said his cash is tied up now and he’s out of options.

“I don’t think I can make it happen. Sixty days is a little too quick,” he said. “Everyone talks about historical funding, but in a harsh economy those are the first things that dry up. There doesn’t seem to be anyone out there willing to fund that.”

Contact Jason Hawk at 329-7148 or jhawk@chroniclet.com.