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Lucas County Land Bank acquires historic Spitzer, Nicholas buildings downtown

There is renewed hope the crumbling Spitzer Building in Toledo’s downtown may soon be restored to its once-majestic self.

The Lucas County Land Bank’s board during a special meeting Tuesday voted to accept the deeds to both the Spitzer building and its neighboring Fifth Third Center and Port Lawrence buildings that sit on or near the corner of Madison Avenue and Huron Street.

Fifth Third Center is commonly referred to as the Nicholas Building, because the property houses the Nicholas Building, the Annex Building, and the Hulches Building. A deed transferring ownership of the properties has been submitted to county offices for conveyance and recording. It is subject to final court approval.

Ergur Private Equity Group, run by California resident Koray Ergur, acquired the Nicholas Building in 2008, the Spitzer Building in 2009, and the Port Lawrence Building in 2015. They’ve been in various states of vacancy, disrepair, and without utilities ever since.

The Land Bank in 2019 sued Ergur Private Equity Group, which owns the three buildings, to collect more than $450,000 of unpaid debts associated with the properties. In early 2020, the Lucas County treasurer’s office also filed lawsuits for unpaid property taxes totaling nearly $90,000.

On June 1, Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Michael Goulding appointed attorney Ralph DeNune as receiver for the properties.

“For too long, our community has watched these important buildings fall apart from abandonment and neglect, even as demand for downtown residential and commercial uses has skyrocketed,” said David Mann, the land bank’s president and CEO. “Today’s action is the culmination of years of effort and provides a fresh chance to redevelop these historic assets under local control.”

Mr. Mann said the receiver still must file his final report with the judge, who then must accept and and close the receivership for the lawsuit to be resolved.

The deteriorating downtown properties have been headed for foreclosure or auction in the past because of unpaid liens and delinquent tax bills, but each time Mr. Ergur has showed up last-minute with enough money to pay off his debts and maintain ownership.

In 2013, officials canceled a sheriff’s sale of the Spitzer Building after Mr. Ergur visited the county treasurer’s office with a cashier’s check for $191,174 to pay off a delinquent tax bill and owed court costs.

A year later, he provided a $922,632 check to pay off the mortgage foreclosure filed by the Spitzer Building Co., which sold the property to Mr. Ergur’s private equity firm in 2009.

Mr. Ergur presented a cashier’s check for $886,673 to the Lucas County Clerk of Courts Office in 2015 to pay off a judgment lien placed on the Nicholas Building in 2008.

A message was left for Mr. Ergur Tuesday.

Lucas County Treasurer Lindsay Webb, who serves as chairman of the land bank board, said reclaiming the abandoned buildings will create the opportunity for new jobs and investment in Toledo’s downtown.

Land bank officials intend to partner with the city of Toledo, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, and the downtown development corporation ConnecToledo to manage and stabilize the properties. The groups then will market them for redevelopment.

Mr. Mann said land bank officials will begin assessing how much stabilization each building needs and how much that work will cost. He anticipates the land bank will cover the expense but said other organizations could become funding partners once the cost is determined.

Brandon Sehlhorst, the city’s economic development chief, called Tuesday’s announcement “truly momentous” for revitalizing downtown Toledo. The intersection at which they sit joins Toledo’s business district with its entertainment district.

“These properties sit on literally the only corner in downtown Toledo where all four original buildings still remain. Without the hard work and intervention of the land bank, I always feared that we might lose them,” said Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz, who also serves as vice chairman of the land bank board. “Now we have a chance to bring them back to life for the benefit of all Toledoans.”

Madison and Huron is also home to the Huntington Bank building, which is occupied, and the long-vacant Nasby Building, which is sometimes called the Madison Building.

Mr. Ergur expressed interest in the Nasby Building in 2015, but the city sold it in 2017 to local developers.

Those developers plan to breathe new life into it, but federal red tape related to removing a defunct Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority bus stop has kept progress on hold for more than two years.


Posted By: The Toledo Blade on August 4, 2020.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

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