This letter was sent to the Editors of the Northwest Signal on December 1, 2021
This letter is intended to clarify what some people might have inferred from the Tuesday, November 16 Northwest Signal front page story and your editorial on Saturday, November 20 regarding the City, Napoleon Area Schools, Cultural Center of Henry County and our donor and the proposal made by the City to purchase part of the Cultural Center’s land, namely the Loose Field portion of the property.
The Cultural Center of Henry County (CCHC) Board of Trustees, formerly the Napoleon Civic Center, has been working to save the Central Elementary since they received the property from the School District in 2017. While our non-profit was established in 2012, the project didn’t begin until our original agreement was signed and purchase of the property in 2017.
The basics and the first agreement with the School Board…
The original agreement is between the Napoleon Area School Board, the Napoleon Civic Center (now the Cultural Center of Henry County), the Henry County Community Foundation, Toledo Community Foundation, and an angel donor who continues to believe in our project. This angel understands the great need for a performing arts and recreation center for Henry County especially Napoleon, and wanted to ensure that we had a fighting chance to save the structure. The Napoleon Area Schools would not release the building to our nonprofit group, without a detailed agreement laced with stipulations on the project. There was also the requirement that we must have the cost of demolition set aside in escrow for the entire structure, should that become necessary. Currently our angel donor has more than $540,000 wrapped up into our project…a large stake that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
The current agreement gives us until June 16, 2022 (five years after signing the agreement), to have all funds raised, all renovations finished, and have an Occupancy Permit for the building, while giving our angel donor protections for their investment into our project by giving them the proceeds for the land sale.
After the past couple of years that all of us and the world have had to deal with due to the global pandemic and with the loss of our president and founding member in 2020, Ken Neuenschwander, the CCHC Board sought to get an much needed extension this year from the School Board on our current agreement which just happened to coincide with a proposal from the City of Napoleon.
The New agreement with the City of Napoleon…
In June 2021, the CCHC was approached by the City of Napoleon for an agreement that would benefit the City’s Master Plan, our organization, and our community. This agreement gave the City the Loose Field portion ($1), CCHC three more months to raise the funds for the project (September 2022), another year to get the construction finished and the Occupancy Permit (September 2023), a $100,000 donation from the City of Napoleon if the project succeeded, and if the project didn’t succeed the City of Napoleon would be able to purchase the remaining land ($1) and construct an Amphitheater using grants and donations within 720 days. What this new agreement didn’t have was protection for our angel donor. Which in essence was the reason the agreement did not go forward and our Board respects that decision.
Where are we now…
With the ongoing global pandemic and current prices/demand of construction materials our organization had to relook at the project in its entirety. The original goal of the project was to save, at minimum, the middle section (Phase 1) which included the 700-seat theater and large gymnasium (Snake Pit) along with the adjacent classrooms behind. We found it would just be as expensive to demolish, or cut off, the sides of the building if we were to just save this section (updated estimates to demolish specific sections of the building: $480,000 for entire building, $300-380,000 just for the East Wing, and $390-$425,000 just for the West Wing) thus us changing the entire goal to save the entire building to just over $3 Million dollars ($1.9 to save the middle section at the very least). To try to meet the deadline for completion, both Phases I and II had to be combined. This would save the 700-seat theater, 2 large gymnasiums, cafeteria style area and the abundant number of classrooms in a structure built like none other.
Currently, we have received interest in converting the east wing (Old Middle School) into condominiums and this person is looking for others who would be interested in joining him, of course we have the $100,000 from the State of Ohio and Northwest State Community College that would allow them to use the facility, we have received interest from Head Start organization to allow them to expand further in our area, a gentleman in the community would love to hold agricultural classes in our facility, open gym for community members to use for recreation purposes, numerous businesses have reached out to us to hold meetings, conventions, and to rent out a room for their small business, brides wanting to hold their weddings and let’s not forget to mention organizations that have been there since the beginning of this project right in the community such as the Henry County Historical Society, City Band, Henry County Chorale, and Maumee Valley Civic Theater that would expand their current occupancies in our community and/or be housed in our facility. We have also received two pledges to date that are helping us move this project forward along with a few other pledges from other individuals and businesses. One of the donation pledges is for $200,000 from a prominent local business, and another $150,000 from a community member that sees our vision. We also do not want to forget to mention the hundreds of other donors who have donated throughout the project timeline whatever they could afford to help the CCHC project.
We have always had a sincere desire to work with the Napoleon Area School Board, City of Napoleon Council, Henry County Commissioners, our Ohio state representatives, Rob McColley and Jim Hoops, as well as our township leaders, village businesses and industries to repurpose the former Central School in Napoleon into a performing arts and recreation center. If the Cultural Center Board does not come up with the money to complete the project by June of 2022, the School Board can call in its marker and require us to demolish the building we all love. We are in continued discussions with all parties involved on how we can do what is right for our beloved community and all parties involved.
This amenity can provide unseen economic benefits to our community. Cultural Centers and the arts contribute more than $25 billion to Ohio’s economy annually and generate $1.06 billion in state and local tax revenues annually. This project could boost and revitalize the economy of Napoleon and Henry County as a whole.
We hope this gives everyone the much-needed update on our project and reminds them of the endless possibilities this building could do for our city and county. We also hope that this information will encourage our beloved community to visit our website to learn how they can contribute to this project, www.culturalcenterhc.org. And as they say, it’s not over until the fat lady sings, and the CCHC Board is committed to completing this project for the community!
With sincere thank you,
Jeffrey A. Tonjes