Demolition started Friday on part of the massive Crowell-Collier complex in downtown Springfield, part of a more than 15-year effort to make the aging building safer.
Three of the complex’s 11 buildings will be torn down by owner Mosier Industrial Services as part a court order. Work began Friday on a building in the center of the structure called Building F, removing brick walls and windows.
The city has focused on Crowell-Collier because of the scale of the complex and several safety and maintenance concerns, including two fires, falling bricks, lack of maintenance for 60 years and a large amount of unknown materials that were jammed in it, City Law Director Jerry Strozdas said.
“There are just aspects of this building that, all told, made it a significant threat to public safety,” he said.
Mosier had been ordered to tear down Building F by Oct. 31 and Buildings J and K by the end of the year. The court order was revised last month to adjust those deadlines and remove a completion date. The company now is to proceed continuously until the demolition is done, Strozdas said, but may take some weather-related breaks.
It reversed the order of some of the demolition, Strozdas said, doing interior work such as removing pipes first and then switching to the exterior.
The city would have liked the demolition to have moved quicker, Strozdas said, but is pleased that it’s progressing.
“It’s been an ongoing process. At each of the steps along the process, the building became less and less of a threat to the public safety and that was our mission all along,” he said.
Part-owner of the building Carl Carroll said Friday that crews only had one working elevator to remove all of the material.
“Every time we would get it empty, we would find a new room that had more in it,” Carroll said. “It would be semi loads after semi loads … It took Harry 27 elevators and 40 years to fill it up and we emptied it in 3½ years.”
Two substantial sections will remain along High and Main streets, Strozdas said, and will require ongoing upkeep and maintenance.
The complex — once the printing home of the world’s largest magazine publishing company — closed as a publishing plant in 1956, then was sold to Harry Denune in 1972. He used it to house his Dixie Distributing Co. motorcycle parts business.
The building caught fire in 1999 and again in 2011.
Clark County Common Pleas Judge Richard O’Neill ordered that it must be brought up to code after bricks fell off the building in 2009 and that its contents must be removed. Denune sold the building to Mosier in October 2011 for $1.5 million.
The city then filed a complaint against Mosier in July 2012 to set a timeline to clean out the 900,000-square-foot property due to safety concerns.
After several missed deadlines, the city returned to the court this March. O’Neill then ordered that Mosier would have to pay $800 per day if it missed new extended deadlines until the tasks were completed.
In May, the city filed a contempt motion because of more missed deadlines. Mosier was then found in contempt in July and ordered to pay a $15,000 fine for violating the March order.
The building has been cited as a key piece of development efforts downtown. The site takes up an entire city block in downtown Springfield and is the single largest structure in the city.
“This right here will get Springfield jump started back into business again,” Carroll said.
Carroll said he has a potential buyer for the building that wants it torn down to develop restaurants and shops in the area.
“Like they got in Columbus where the Blue Jackets are, they could put steakhouses, they could put anything in the front building and remodel it,” he said.
Life-long Springfield resident Dewey Miller was leaving the Eagles lodge across the street on Friday afternoon and said it is hard to see the building go.
“I like to see history stay. Some of the old business need to stay,” Miller said.
He remembers peeking through the windows, watching men work there as a child and the trains leaving the factory.
“I got a kick out of that,” Miller said.
Even with his fond memories of the Crowell-Collier building he said he understands why it is coming down.
“These are old, run down. They are getting dangerous. It is time to go. Go for the future. Make something out of it,” Miller said.
Staff Writers Michael Cooper and Samantha Sommer contributed to this report.
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