LORAIN — Stakeholders are still hopeful a deal can be reached to keep the doors open indefinitely at the St. Joseph Community Center, the former hospital-turned-community-center for numerous nonprofit organizations.
The tough rhetoric that last month suggested the center would close has been replaced with officials speaking of compromise and a determination to work out an agreement that keeps the center open.
Late last month, Ohio Realty Advisors announced it was quitting as property manager of the center within 90 days, and the South Shore Community Development Corp., the nonprofit group that owns the center, threatened to terminate tenants’ leases and close the building.
Todd Roby, a member of the South Shore board of directors, sounded optimistic Tuesday.
“Not much has happened because of the holiday weekend, but it’s between Mayor Chase Ritenauer and the Department of Development,” he said. “They just need to come to an agreement, and they are getting close. Right now, I think everyone is just doing homework.”
Ritenauer, who has been heading up bailout negotiations with the state, said he is continuing to focus on more discussion into this week. He knows many deadlines have come and gone for the center, but those are out of his hands, he said.
“As it goes for me and my team, all we can do is focus on what we can control, and that is the discussions with the state,” he said.
The last time the city and state talked was last Thursday in a conference call between Ritenauer and Ohio Department of Development Director Christine Schmenk.
The goal of that call was to find common ground, said Stephanie Mennecke, spokeswoman for the Department of Development.
“We are still in dialogue with stakeholders to ensure a successful outcome, as we’ve done from the beginning of this project,” she said. “The state has taken significant steps to resolve the situation and is committed to working with the community.”
The sticking point to an agreement seems to be the remainder of a $2.7 million loan that was issued to finance a rehabilitation project for the center. Previously, the state forgave a large portion, but a $1.35 million balance remains, which Lorain and Lorain County taxpayers are on the hook for if it’s not repaid.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.