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Demolition of Building Underway Despite Neighborhood Opposition

Brent Warren Brent Warren Demolition of Building Underway Despite Neighborhood OppositionThe building on May 7, when demolition had begun on the rear addition. Photos by Brent Warren.
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Nationwide Children’s Hospital is proceeding with the demolition of a historic building on its campus despite pleas from a neighborhood group to save the structure.

The house, at 574 S. 18th St., was built in 1928 as an apartment building and served as the hospital’s Ronald McDonald House from 1983 to 2008. After that, it was used as office space before being vacated in the fall of 2018.

Mary Ellen Fiorino, Media Relations Manager at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, said that the site will be paved for parking, adding 40 spaces to an adjacent lot.

She provided the following statement when asked about the hospital’s decision to tear down the building:

As a fellow good neighbor on the South Side, Nationwide Children’s first shared plans of the demolition and new parking area in June 2019 with the Livingston Park Neighborhood Improvement Association. The Association voted in opposition of the plans, and since then the hospital has deferred demolition of the building. This allowed an ample time period for the Association to propose plans for an adaptive re-use and/or a funding source to repurpose the building. A proposal was not submitted to the hospital and a funding source was not identified by the Association.

Jason Hottle, President of the Livingston Park Neighborhood Improvement Association, told Columbus Underground that he doesn’t dispute the timeline laid out in the statement, but strongly disagrees with the implication that by not providing the hospital with a plan to renovate the building (and pay for it), somehow the group had consented to the building’s demolition.

“Livingston Park residents were told the only option the hospital would be receptive to would be a proposal to move the building, at our expense, to an alternate location,” Hottle said. “This was not a viable option for a very small non-profit civic association with an annual budget of less than $500 a year.”

The group didn’t submit a written proposal to move or repurpose the building “because we did not have the financial or land resources to do so,” he added. “The residents of the Livingston Park Neighborhood remain opposed to the demolition of 574 S. 18th St.”

Hottle also provided a copy of a letter the association sent to Nationwide Children’s on June 18 that suggested several possibilities for how the building could be reused and laid out some of the reasons that its membership was opposed to tearing it down.

“We believe value should be placed on the fact that it is the last of the original grand homes and apartments that originally stood on 18th St.,” the letter reads. “We’ve supported efforts to demolish buildings for the child care center expansion but do not believe a surface parking lot is reasonable justification to entirely erase our history. This is a particularly challenging justification when we consider the very small number of parking spaces the demolition adds to the hospital’s total parking inventory. It is even less convincing since we know land is cleared and allocated for a full parking garage expansion one block to the north.”

The letter also contained a proposed compromise, in which only the more recent, rear addition to the building be torn down. Such a plan would provide some additional parking while preserving the original, historic building, the group argued.

Nationwide Children’s did not take the association up on its idea, and recently began taking the building down. As of the morning of May 7, the original structure on 18th was still standing but the rear addition was mostly gone.

Columbus Landmarks opposed the hospital’s decision, and alerted its members of the pending demolition in a newsletter sent out on May 1.

“Columbus has less than 25% of its pre-1945 building fabric remaining, compared to a 50-city average of 38%,” said Becky West, Executive Director of Columbus Landmarks. “With every demolition like this one, we not only negatively impact our city’s architectural heritage but also our sustainability efforts by discarding and hauling tons of building materials to the landfill.”

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