‘Blue House’ could face demolitionWritten by Patrick Timmis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
In 1900, the “Blue House” was a brand-new home in the neighborhood that is now the Vistula Historic District. Today, it faces demolition.
The property is owned by Aurora House, a nonprofit organization — located right next to the Blue House — founded in 1985 to provide housing, resources and learning opportunities to homeless women and children, according to its website.
Richard Martinez, chairman of the Historic Vistula Foundation, appreciates Aurora’s mission. “It’s a worthwhile organization,” he said.
But he doesn’t appreciate what he perceives as Aurora’s lack of care for the 111-year-old property.
According to the city code, he said, Aurora has the responsibility to maintain the house. Martinez said Aurora initially indicated it planned on restoring the house as a charitable residence. “But, unfortunately, that didn’t happen,” he said.
In March, Aurora came to the commission overseeing the Vistula district with a request to tear down the Blue House.
Judy Cattran, the Vistula representative on the City Historic District Commission, said she believes Aurora deliberately let the house decay with the intention of eventually pulling it down.
“To me the big issue here is demolition by neglect,” she said. “They bought the building and they have done nothing to preserve it.”
But Aurora does own the property, which Martinez said made the decision very difficult, given that the committee’s chief responsibility is to preserve historic buildings.
“After a lot of discussion and sweating and squirming, the commission gave them permission to demolish it,” he said.
Martinez voted to pass the request.
“Being the chairman, I try to sense what the committee as a whole wants to do and I go along with that,” he said. “Had there been more members there (only a quorum was present) I may have voted ‘no’.”
But some of the Blue House’s neighbors protested, resulting in a hearing with the Toledo Plan Commission. The commission postponed the demolition permit for two months and requested that Aurora and the Vistula community work together, in the meantime, to find a different solution. The group will meet May 31 to discuss possibilities.
Denise Fox, Aurora House’s executive director, declined to comment on specifics, saying she wanted to “stay on task and on track” with the Plan Commission’s directions.
Martinez said the Blue House is an example of a Toledo-wide problem, a surplus of empty houses.
“The city’s solution is to demolish them,” he said. “Well, that’s not good in a historic district.”