[ back ]
Chardon Square option downplays maple industry
Chardon Square option downplays maple industry
By JOSEPH KOZIOL JR.
Two members of the Chardon Square Association offered a dramatic departure last week for a new building to replace Chardon Square's log cabin.
Thomas Bryant and Patricia Ingram presented their vision to the city's heritage house committee, saying their plan would be more economically viable than designs that have preceded it.
Rather than a timber-frame building that provides meeting rooms and a tribute to the maple-sugar industry that has been the subject of the latest discussions, the pair offered a building that provides a second story for rental offices and a first floor that would accommodate parties of up to 150. The maple-sugar industry would not be a main attraction.
"It makes more financial sense," Mr. Bryant said.
The committee said it would consider the ideas, but they would still need to be reviewed by Henry Penttila, architect on the project.
"It's more food for thought," committee member Gwendolyn Sheehan said.
John Eltzroth, committee chairman, said the discussion with the two association members was the result of a presentation he had made earlier to the group, which was invited to provide input on the design.
Ms. Ingram, an artist and owner of Brushworks Studio in Chardon, said she borrowed from various features past and present in the city for her design. An early Western Reserve style that borrows from the Greek revival style of architecture serves as basis for the design with Palladian windows and Ionic and Doric columns. A cupola, borrowing from the Geauga County Courthouse, would top the building, she said.
Mr. Bryant initially had questioned whether the committee was planning to devote a substantial amount of the space to a room that would contain an evaporator and tribute to the maple-syrup industry. He said the committee's Web site appeared to indicate that 1,579 square feet of the 2,633-square-foot building would be reserved for that use.
Mr. Eltzroth said the evaporator room only would comprise about 20 percent of the total building space. He said the room will measure about 22 1/2 by 12 feet.
Mr. Bryant questioned whether the current plans for the building would provide the money needed to maintain it in the future.
Mr. Eltzroth said the committee was beginning to work on the economics. He said Chardon City Council just had approved opening the building to more than just nonprofits and the committee was exploring what businesses or organizations might use it, how often and what they needed in the building. He said that would provide the economics.
Councilwoman Leslie Bednar said there are other benefits to the building. The maple-sugar producers, she said, would be able to sell their products in the building and the schools and library would provide cultural and heritage programs, using the maple-sugar room.
But, Mr. Bryant said he found the maple-sugar room aspect "troubling."
He said the maple-sugar industry has a "historic past" but is now "a dying industry.
"Between watching an evaporator and paint drying, I'd watch paint drying," he said.
Instead, he said, it makes sense to dedicate a portion of the building to the city's overall heritage and concentrate on making sure its economically viable. He said the financial losses suffered by the Geauga County Maple Festival over the last several years are evidence that the maple industry is dying.
He said a 150-person party room basically would give the city a monopoly on large parties. "There is no place in Chardon, except for St. Mary's, so the city becomes the only game in town," he said.
Revenues from the party center and rental offices above even could spur redevelopment of the east side of the square, which he called "flat out ugly."
"It would be a Chardon community house, something more than a can of maple syrup," Mr. Bryant said.
He said if the city fails to get the bookings it needs to provide money for building maintenance, it will be the public that pays. "There's a very real possibility that the building will go on the public dole," he said.
Mr. Eltzroth said city Manager David Lelko has indicated that the current city staff could handle reservations at no additional cost.
Mrs. Bednar said those who have used the building in the past will be given priority for its use, making those easy to fit into a regular schedule. Only new users will require city time, she said.
Mr. Eltzroth said other groups, such as the Chardon Area Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis or Rotary clubs, would likely step forward to help if maintenance became an issue.
Although plans have been to erect the new building at the site of the log cabin, Mr. Bryant said, the site of the old Wilbur house on the east side would be more fitting. The log cabin, he said, could be converted to an open-air facility by knocking down three of its walls, leaving just the wall with the fireplace and the roof.
Mrs. Sheehan said the problem with using the Wilbur house site is that it is not owned by the city, but the county.
Committee member Cathy Gillette said the committee conducted an extensive survey on going off the square with the building. She said it looked at the Wilbur House site and the old city manager's home on South Hambden Street. She said the committee was not in a position to consider land that is not owned by the city. "We have passed that point," she said.
Committee member James Rayl said the Chardon Kiwanis Club gave the log cabin as a gift to the city and that the Kiwanis want the log cabin to remain or be improved.
Mr. Eltzroth said city taxpayers voted on the issue, saying they wanted the log cabin improved, as well. Voters in November 2007 overwhelmingly supported the idea of a new building using private funds. The issue passed by a 754-to-450 margin.
But, Mr. Bryant said, voters made their decision uninformed. He said they never were asked whether they would be willing to support the maintenance with tax dollars. If they had, he said, they would have voted no. He said anyone who sees how hard it is to pass school levies knows voters are frugal with their money.
Mrs. Sheehan said one of the main reasons she volunteered to serve on the committee was to ensure that a maintenance fund would be set up. She said she disagreed that the new building would not be used, saying she, personally, planned to hold family gatherings there. She said the place would allow for large family gatherings, which her home cannot, as well as a place for games on the lawn.
[ back ]