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Company Appeals City’s ‘Historic Landmark’ Designation

The California-based company, which is looking to sell the building, hopes to overturn planning commission’s ruling.

Last month, the owners of the building that once housed the hinted that they might appeal to make the 100-year-old building a historic landmark.

California Phone — which owns the property — followed through, filing an appeal in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.

The city’s planning commission, as well as , the city’s economic development organization, are named as defendants in the case.

The historic designation — one of only three structures in the city with the “landmark” status — means that the nearly 100-year-old building cannot be torn down.

Changes to the building’s exterior will also not be permitted.

That didn’t sit well with the company, which is trying to sell the property.

Representatives for California Phone could not be immediately reached.

However, Dru Siley, the city’s planning and development director, said the city is ready for the case.

“I am happy to fight that fight,” Siley said on Friday. “This effort is worth it to our city and to our downtown.”

At last month’s planning commission meeting, the attorney for the California-based phone company expressed concerns that the new designation would lower the property value.

But city officials said that’s not the case.

Earlier this year, the recommended that the structure at 15422 Detroit Avenue receive the special distinction — which means that the building could never be demolished.

The structure also now qualifies for historic building federal and state tax credits.

The building joins only and the as Lakewood’s buildings with a historic landmark status. 

According to the application, the stone building boasts a number of significant architectural features including detailed masonry work.

Designed by Charles Draper Faulkner — the architect behind dozens of First Church of Christ, Scientist structures in the Midwest — the large two-story building’s construction began in 1913.

Church services took place in the basement until the upstairs was completed in 1922.

The building, situated just to the west of the , was sold in 2004 to a commodity plastics trading firm, which extensively renovated the property.

And last year, the structure — most recently home to Maxxum Plastics — closed its doors and was put up for sale. According to court documents, the company ceased operations in Lakewood in 2009.

That’s when California Phone took ownership.

According to a 2008 tax assessment, the property and the building are valued at $1.8 million. The property — including the 23,000-square-foot building — is now on the market for almost $2 million.

Pat Ballasch July 21, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Rather than tell us you're ready to "fight the fight", cite some similar cases where a city has successfully defended a historic designation. I'd personally rather see funds and energy focused on improving city planning & services. If the owners can show the designation devalues their property they may have a legitimate point. Limiting use can affect value. SHOW US THE CASE LAW.
Renee July 21, 2012 at 02:24 PM
I have always loved that building because of its uniqueness. I hope it can be saved. I think it would be a great for a banquet hall. I don't know what it looks like on the inside but can it host wedding receptions? business meetings? conferences? I love the outside of the building.
Nelly Z. July 21, 2012 at 04:12 PM
It strikes me as odd to demand that the city "show us the case" when the only details you offer on behalf of the plaintiff's case is that "limit[ation of] use can affect value." At any rate, these matters are issues of public record: Any citizen can access minutes from the two planning commission meetings in which the designation was discussed by placing a simple public records request via Lakewood City Hall. Do so and you can debate the merits of the city's arguments for yourself. Also, because city funds are allocated by budget, only money previously budgeted for the city's legal department will be used to defend this case---i.e., the money used will not be taken from the budget for "improving city planning & services" (further, I would argue that working to preserve buildings of local historical merit is itself a means of improving city planning and services).
The original Bill July 21, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Look at how well this type of thing worked for that Church at the corner of W117th & Lake. Giant Eagle wanted to develop that whole block but was blocked from doing so because of those few misguided people. Now we have a vacant block of buildings with the exception of Gepettos and the saved Church just rots away. Is that what we want right across from the rebuilt Library, an old falling apart Church?
Bill Hausknecht July 22, 2012 at 12:35 AM
It's too bad it doesn't house Lakewood's City Hall -It looks on the outside like a VERY grand government building unlike the utilitarian building down the street and it is more in the center("downtown") of Lakewood to boot!
AL Resident July 23, 2012 at 02:38 PM
An old empty building does nothing for the City...even though it may be beautiful. This is prime commercial real estate in downtown Lakewood and it should be developed for its highest and best use. Churches have very little ability to be re-used...with the exception of another church. The high ceilings alone make them very expensive to maintain w/ regard to heating and cooling. I agree with property owner here. The Gov is hurting owner's property value and hindering the development of downtown Lakewood, which has been major positive for the City the past few years.
Renee July 23, 2012 at 03:23 PM
I may be mistaken but I think the property on 117th and Lake is technically Cleveland? I have always thought that the East side of 117th is Cleveland and the West was Lakewood.

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