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Niles turns page on building

Former Times’ home set to be demolished

NILES — The Niles Times building, a source of news for Niles from 1922 until 1993, will be demolished today.

After closing its doors in 1993 and then housing the city’s water department, the building has served no purpose other than storage of city documents ranging from court dockets to tax records, according to Mayor Steve Mientkiewicz.

He explained the city purchased the building in 1996 and the former newsroom was filled with boxes of documents — some dating back to before the building was constructed.

“I’m not sure what the initial purpose was when the city purchased in in the ’90s, but when I say it was filled, every square inch of it was filled with boxes of documents,” Mientkiewicz said.

Demolition talk began around 2016 or 2017 when an engineer did an assessment of city buildings, and the building was deemed unsafe at that time. In 2018, water department employees were moved out of the building and since then it has been vacant. Mientkiewicz said the demolition is needed.

“We’re excited its going to be torn down. It’s a blighted building both inside and out. There is structural and safety concerns with the building,” he said. “It’s another blighted building that unfortunately the city owns, but fortunately we do have the funds to tear it down.”

Getting the greenlight to demolish the building was a process. Three separate entities approved the demolition, starting with the Trumbull County Council of Governments who approved demolition April 14. The next week, April 21, Niles city council voted unanimously for demolition. The Trumbull County Commissioners later voted to approve the demolition as well. The demolition will be overseen by the Trumbull County Engineer’s Office.

LOGISTICS

Tom Klejka, highway superintendent with the county engineer’s office said the demolition will be a slower process to control the demolition. Unlike the Garfield School demolition in 2019, Klejka said the Times demolition can be at a slower pace.

“Because of the size of it (Garfield), you had to get it down quickly. Because this building is more secure and smaller, we can take it down in sections to control the amount of debris on the ground at one time,” Klejka said.

The whole process, from initial demolition to clean up, should take a couple of weeks, according to Klejka.

He added he expects no issues taking the building down, but anything is possible.

“The building was built in 1922, so you could run into anything,” he said.

One of the concerns Klejka has is keeping the public safe. He noted when a project like this takes place close to a city, residents may want to watch the demolition.

“Some concerns are keeping the public away from the building like sightseers or people who want a piece of memorabilia,” he said.

Demolition will take place on the south side of the building and gradually work toward West State Street. Klejka said the process will start on the exterior walls, then by folding the roof in on itself, the building will collapse in on itself.

Mientkiewicz said the pricetag for demolition is $60,000.

“For that cost, we believe it’s a bargain, and we believe it will clean up this area and help with our plans for blight removal and economic development. When the building is down, it will be a paved parking lot half a block away from downtown,” he said.

The need for parking around the downtown area is needed, Mientkiewicz said. He added that the new parking lot will provide additional parking for not only residents, but city employees as well.

“Ultimately, since we’re trying to revitalize the downtown area and address the downtown concerns, albeit a half of a block away from downtown, it will provide all the downtown parking we would need,” he said.

UNFORTUNATE CIRCUMSTANCE

If circumstances were different and the building was properly maintained following its closure, Mientkiewicz said he would have liked to see the building repurposed for council meetings or even a community meeting room.

“With a lot of these older buildings, there’s a lot of charm and ambiance. If it were maintained and kept up in the previous years, I think it would bring a sense of charm to house a council meeting or a community meeting room,” he said. “But because it fell into a state of disrepair and the condition of it, there’s no other option than demolition.”

Adversely, trying to sell the building would prove difficult as well because the price to refurbish the building would be astronomical.

“To try to refurbish this building would cost an investor millions of dollars in reinvestment,” Mientkiewicz said.

He said the building itself is structurally unsound with leaks in the roof, facade issues with the bricks and steel beams rusting.

“It’s to the point where it needs to be demolished,” Mientkiewicz said.

There is a bright side for community residents, however. Similarly to the demolition of the Garfield school, Mientkiewicz said there will be a pile of bricks for those who wish to have a piece of the building. Also, the cornerstones depicting the year the building was constructed were able to be preserved on Friday and will be donated to the Niles Historical Society.

Demolition is scheduled for 10 a.m. today.

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