August 1, 2014

Elyria
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Lorain considers demolishing former Ghoulardi’s building

LORAIN — City officials want to cut their losses over the former home of Ghoulardi’s Bar & Grill.

City Council members Monday are expected to approve advertising for the redevelopment or demolition of the building at 770 Broadway. The city provided up to $70,000 in federal taxpayer development loans from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development between 1999 and 2003 to Gerald Mielcarek Jr., Ghoulardi’s owner, according to Doug Rangel, executive director of the Lorain Development Corporation, the city’s private consultant.

Ghoulardi’s closed in 2008, and the city sued Mielcarek in 2009 for $45,701 in unpaid loans, then purchased the foreclosed building at a sheriff’s sale for $25,000 in unpaid taxes last year. Rangel told Council members Monday that the building is in bad shape and it would cost a few hundred thousand dollars to redevelop. He said city officials will demolish it if a developer can’t be found to raze or refurbish it.

“If we could sell this building for a dollar, we have, in essence, cut our losses on this,” Rangel said.

The demolition could cost between $60,000 and $100,000 because of asbestos removal from the building, Rangel said. If a buyer can’t be found, the total cost to taxpayers for demolition and unpaid loans could be about $170,000, which irritated Council members.

“Within weeks of buying it, we find out that it’s totally useless,” said Councilman Dan Given, D-at large.

Given called the purchase of the building by the administration of former Mayor Tony Krasienko a “debacle,” and Given had the wording of the ordinance for advertising changed so that new Service Director Robert Fowler must get Council members’ approval before signing off on any sale.

Resident John Wargo, a frequent critic of the Krasienko administration and Council members, said the Community Development Department members who made the loans need to be closely monitored.

“You are letting them run without keeping an eye on them,” Wargo told Council members. “They’re not bringing any substance to this town.”

Councilman Bret Schuster, D-4th Ward, told Wargo that city officials had nothing to lose by putting the building up for sale.

“The money has been spent (and) a mistake was made,” Schuster said. “If we can save ourselves the demo money and somebody wants to make a commitment to clean up Broadway, I’ll take a look at it.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.