January 20, 2017 [Sue Botos, WestLife]
About eight years after the last tenant moved out of the Executive Club complex, the abandoned and deteriorating Center Ridge Road buildings finally met the wrecking ball last week, much to the joy of city officials.
“It’s a truly exciting day in the neighborhood,” commented law Director Andy Bemer during the first City Council meeting of the year on Jan. 9.
“This goes back to 2010,” Bemer continued, giving a brief synopsis of the process, which ramped up in 2015, to bring down the 1960s-era group of four buildings. The complex was most notably anchored by the Executive Club, a former businessmen’s social and fitness club which, according to local legend, hosted parties in the 1960s and early 1970s sometimes broken up by police raids.
The 46,000-square-foot complex actually earned an “X” rating in 2012 when Fire Marshal Rob Crowe declared the buildings unsafe for firefighters and authorized the placement of red caution placards with a white X in the windows.
However, the buildings were found to be structurally sound and posed no danger of collapse.
The Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court affirmed the structures as a public nuisance in 2015, clearing the way for demolition. But numerous foreclosures on the property and various liens on it had made identifying an owner difficult. Bemer had said that once discussion of demolition began, several entities came forward. Those able to be contacted agreed to the razing.
“We went through the (Cuyahoga County) Land Bank for demolition funds in 2015,” said Bemer, referring to a $304,000 grant, received in April of 2015. It was anticipated by city and county officials the buildings would be razed by the end of that year, but further inspection showed a proliferation of asbestos throughout the structures, which tacked on additional cost to the project.
“Every week, we kept looking for more money,” continued Bemer. Eventually, another $96,000 was secured from the county, and $50,000 from the Land Bank for a total of $450,000.
“A lot of people got involved with this,” Bemer stated, describing the experience as a “carousel ride.” He credited former County Councilman Dave Greenspan with helping to obtain the final $50,000. He added Crowe also played a “very significant part” in the process.
Mayor Pam Bobst stated there are no immediate plans for the property, which is a prime piece of land, according to city officials. The desirability of the location has been enhanced by a $64,000 Transportation for Livable Communities grant secured by Rocky River and Fairview Park for the study of improvements to Center Ridge.
Once the property is sold, she said, the buyer must pay back the county funds in the form of a lien.