A historic church property, vacant since 2006 and damaged by fire three years ago, may finally come back to life as a center of emerging technologies.
It would be a tribute to the inventor who commissioned the design of the original building, as well as the architect who designed it, said developer Tony Troppe, who submitted a winning bid to purchase the old one. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church at Akron University.
“We recognize the need to be good stewards of the past so that we can spark new energy for the location in the future,” said Troppe. “We are considering several adaptive property reuse ideas so that we can make the structure relevant to a whole new generation of knowledge workers. “
Akron University said on Wednesday it had accepted an offer to purchase the property, consisting of two buildings at 354 E. Market St., on the north side of the campus. The university said Troppe’s bid was $ 100,001.99, while the other bidder, Progress Through Preservation Inc., submitted what the organization called a “nominal bid” of $ 3,500. .
Progress Through Preservation is a non-profit organization that promotes and encourages the preservation and adaptive reuse of historic buildings in Summit County. The group fought to keep the St. Paul’s property from being demolished. Representatives could not be reached immediately for comment.
The church was built in 1885 on land on East Market Street that was later to be part of Akron’s Millionaire’s Row. A second building was constructed in 1907. Akron University purchased the property in 1952 and dedicated it to the Firestone Conservatory of Music. The property became the university’s Ballet Center in 1976, which moved 30 years later to another part of the campus. The buildings have since been vacant and the 1885 building was hit by fire in 2018.
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Innovation in the spotlight
Troppe says he intends to preserve both buildings out of appreciation of their historical significance to the Greater Akron community, giving special credit to the industrialist who commissioned their design.
“It would be Lewis Miller – it would be appropriate to create the Lewis Miller Center for New Technology,” he said.
Miller is credited by the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his invention of the Buckeye Mower and Reaper, the prototype of the modern mower. He co-founded the Chautauqua Institution, in Chautauqua, New York, in 1874.
The original church building was an innovative design by Miller-hired architect Jacob Snyder, who is credited with creating the “Akron plan” of the church design. Akron’s plan made Sunday school teaching easier by placing small teaching rooms around a main hall in a semicircle.
“It was a different plan from your upright pews; it was almost a theater in the round, where you have a central podium, and you had rooms on the periphery that were integrated into the space, but you could also split into different classes for different ages, ”Troppe said, adding that the architectural style was popular from the 1870s to the 1920s.
Projects for the future
Troppe said a renovation plan should be completed by the end of the year, and that it may take another two years to complete all the work.
At this time, there is no estimate of the cost of the renovation.
“I’ll tell you when I know,” he laughs. “It was important to save the building. We are on a mission… we must save each of these buildings because they are so important in saving our legacy.
“We are saving the past to have an impact on the future,” he added.
One of the challenges will be dealing with the original building damaged by the fire. Although Troppe said 75% of the work needed to preserve the structure has already been done, the interior remains open to the elements.
Troppe said several ideas about who would occupy the buildings are under consideration.
“We are creating a place that is going to focus on a variety of technologies, such as sustainable technologies, including biomimicry … medicines, power generation, carbon capture, semiconductors,” he said. -he declares.
Innovative ideas are also being considered for sealing the roof.
“Our plan is to create a translucent solar collector photovoltaic roof system with advanced materials that allow us to pursue primarily horticultural technologies inside the building,” he said. “It is not only a house of the Lord, but a greenhouse of the Lord.”
Struck by fire
The demolition of the historic church property was on the list of capital projects proposed by the university for 2016.
However, the fate of the building was in limbo after the university failed to secure the state’s money for the demolition.
In April 2018, the Akron Fire Department received a 11:30 p.m. report of smoke and flames from Building 1885. The blaze escalated and crews were still on scene the next day. The cause of the fire has not been determined.
In 2019, as a precaution, the university attached scaffold-like steel brackets to the exterior of the building to prevent the walls from falling outward.
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The sale of the building was made through a public auction under seal through the Department of State Administrative Services. The university has accepted the offer and the contract is being finalized.
“We are very pleased with the sale and that the developer intends to preserve the building’s rich history,” said Dallas Grundy, senior vice president and chief financial officer of UA. “We believe the end result will benefit both the university and the Akron community.”
Eric Marotta can be reached at 330-541-9433, or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @MarottaEric.