SOLON– The city is making another trip to the candy store.
Solon’s city council and city staff are working on the purchase of 100 W. Main St. to serve as the future site of a new city hall.
According to city administrator Cassandra Lippincott, the city has made an offer on the property which has been accepted pending contingencies, including financing.
The two-story building (also referred to as the Kramer building, for its previous owner), was one of several sites considered by council members last year. Constructed in 1972, it features pre-stressed concrete ceilings, which would provide a clear span layout with no load-bearing interior walls, and 7,200 square feet of space.
Previously rejected because of remodeling estimates and concerns regarding property lines, the Main Street location was reconsidered in the last few months as the city resumed its efforts to find a new location for its offices.
After a closed session at an April 25 special meeting, council members voted 4-0 (with council member Brad Kunkel absent) to direct city staff to negotiate the purchase.
But that was after other possible sites were eliminated.
Finding a new city home was the top priority identified by council members earlier this spring when a review was made of Solon’s Capital Improvement Plan.
Lippincott said the city considered the stone livery stable on Main Street, the former Wheelbarrow Antiques location on Dubuque Street (which currently houses part of the operations for Mark’s Auto Body), and the Brosh Chapel & Community Center in the weeks preceding the April 25 decision.
“We’ve continued to work toward some sort of solution for a city office,” Lippincott noted. There wasn’t support among council members to revive the purchase of the Brosh building, and during the special meeting, it was reported a deal could not be reached on the Dubuque Street site.
The issue moved to the forefront in 2011 when the city was approached with the idea of utilizing the Brosh building as a city office and community center.
For months over the spring and summer, city staff and elected officials combed the community for sites, including the Solon Public Library’s lower level and the former candy store.
The latter was rejected in late July after engineer Dave Schechinger and inspector Steve Lee took a look at the property.
According to Schechinger, while the structure was in relatively good shape, there would numerous issues to resolve, including likely extensive overhauls of the electrical and plumbing systems.
Minor age-related deterioration was also noted, and the engineer estimated general construction costs at $50-60 per sq. ft. for renovation, or approximately $400,000. An elevator, parking lot paving and the acquisition of adjacent property could drive the price up even further, he added.
The Brosh site became the city’s winning candidate, but 65 percent of 468 residents voted against a $1.35 million bond issue at a Nov. 8, 2011, election.
This time around, the council members are hoping residents will be supportive of a plan to reclaim an unused building on Main Street, Lippincott said.
The asking price on the listing has also dropped significantly, from $330,000 in the summer of 2011 to $275,000 currently.
One of the earlier concerns was the building’s apparent construction directly on the property line, so the city is planning a survey to provide a clearer picture. A construction easement may be needed for any renovation project, she said.
As to the cost of updates, Lippincott said the 2011 estimates included the renovation of the upper level, which has been divided into apartments. The city will likely involve an architect at some point to review options, including the rehabilitation of the ground floor only.
It’s also possible the city will fund the project entirely with Tax Increment Finance (TIF) money, she added, which would not require taking the project to a referendum.
In 2011, the proposed $1.35 million bond for the Brosh site was to be financed by a combination TIF funds and the city’s debt service levy.
Lippincott said the city hopes to clear up some of the contingencies with the purchase, including an environmental assessment, by June, with a closing date shortly thereafter.