Playdium demolition beginsWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Small groups of area residents gathered behind yellow caution tape in the chill and light rain Jan. 26 to watch the city begin demolition of a community landmark in East Toledo’s Birmingham neighborhood.
The 110-year-old Playdium, located at 1958 Front St., had been vacant for more than a decade and was structurally unsound, said Jen Sorgenfrei, public information officer for the City of Toledo.
The owner had OK’d the demolition, so a final inspection and official condemnation of the building was not necessary before proceeding with the demolition, Sorgenfrei said.
Michael Mossing purchased the building for $1,500 in November 2010 and has agreed to repay demolition costs, which the city estimated could be $10,000 to $15,000, Sorgenfrei said.
Tim Plath, manager of the division of Streets, Bridges and Harbor, said the demolition was going smoothly and was expected to be finished that afternoon.
“From what I understand, it was a happening place,” Plath said of the Playdium, which formerly housed a bowling alley, nightclub and other entertainment venues.
Lucas County Administrator Peter Ujvagi was among those watching the demolition. A Hungarian immigrant to Toledo who grew up in the Birmingham neighborhood, Ujvagi said he was frustrated with how fast the decision was made to raze the building.
“I’m mourning in a whole bunch of ways. This is like a wake,” Ujvagi said. “This used to be the gateway to the neighborhood. It’s been part of our community for 100 years. Why didn’t they give us enough time to save some historic pieces? My frustration is we’re not even in a position to save parts of it. There is increasingly less and less respect for our built heritage. We let it slowly deteriorate. The fact that it’s possible for something like this to happen, and now to save some symbolic elements, we can’t even do that?”
Carol Cipolla came with her husband, Joe, to watch the demolition. She said her grandfather once tended bar at the building and her husband set bowling pins and played softball there as a boy. She hoped to be allowed to keep a brick as a souvenir when the work was finished.
“I would like a piece of remembrance,” Cipolla said. “It’s a shame. The neighborhood’s going down.”
Local resident Juli Bertalan also hoped to salvage parts of the building once the demolition was over. Although she mainly remembers the building as vacant, Bertalan said her mother and uncles have fond memories there and she was sorry to see it fall.
“This building has been empty for a long time and it’s been a problem. We knew it was supposed to come down soon, but they didn’t contact hardly anyone in the neighborhood to save any part of it,” Bertalan said. “It’s just so sad.”
Not everyone gathered at the site was upset.
Chris Escareno, a lifelong resident of East Toledo who lives next door, said the building was an unsafe eyesore and a hangout for drug addicts.
“I think it’s safer torn down than left standing,” Escareno said. “It’s just an old, decrepit building, but they can put something else in there.”
Boards had been removed from windows and doors and the building was broken into several times, Sorgenfrei said.
“There has been a lot of interest from people to secure some of the architectural elements of the building, but it is an unsafe structure at this point,” Sorgenfrei told Toledo Free Press on Jan. 25. “The majority of the roof itself is missing and there are some structural instability issues.”
Utility service at the building was discontinued Jan. 24 at the request of the City of Toledo, said Chris Kozak, communications and community relations manager for Columbia Gas of Ohio. Service at the site had been inactive since July 5, 2007, Kozak said.
On Jan. 25, Sorgenfrei said demolition of the building would happen sooner rather than later.
“I know we’re looking to move rather quickly because it’s an unsafe structure and we don’t want anyone to be injured,” Sorgenfrei said. “There are some community welfare issues at stake.”
Toledo Free Press Staff Writer Brigitta Burks contributed to this report.