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Senator Raises Hope for Rebuilding Garrettsville’s Buckeye Block

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Garrettsville – It helps to have friends in high places. The village of Garrettsville has a friend in Ohio Senator John Eklund (R-District 18), who plans to throw his weight behind state funding for new construction of the Buckeye Block Building on Main Street.

After meeting recently with builder and primary Buckeye Block Building owner Michael Mascheck, Garrettsville Mayor Rick Patrick and businessman Pete Kepich, Senator Eklund said, “They were all so enthused and committed to revitalizing the downtown, I got the fever a little bit. It’s infectious! I promise you, I’ll put my shoulder to the wheel and do all I can to push this forward.”

The historic district has been crippled since March 22, 2014, when 13 businesses/community services were wiped out in a fire that destroyed the 1868-era wood frame Buckeye Block Building. The community has rallied in multiple support efforts since then, and the total amount gathered in the GarrettsvilleStrong Fund now totals over $97,000 (with $3,800 disbursed in 2015 for renovation of the only surviving brick Mishler Building). Unfortunately, that’s a small contribution toward the expected $2.5-$3 million reconstruction cost.

Consequently, Maschek is applying for a portion of the State of Ohio’s budget, through the biennial Capital Appropriations Bill, enacted in each even-numbered year. Generally, it provides appropriations for the repair, reconstruction and construction of capital assets of state agencies, colleges, universities and school districts. Funds may also be allocated for community projects of local or regional interest… such as reconstruction of the Buckeye Block Building. Senator Eklund has agreed to request funding before the General Assembly in March or April 2016. If passed, state bond funding will be released in the following fiscal year: as early as July 2017 and over a two-year appropriation period.

Eklund, who serves Geauga, Lake and  Portage counties, says the Ohio Office of Budget and Management determines the upper limit of the state’s bonding capacity in any given year. Then entities from the three counties submit applications for a portion of that available funding. “It’s our job to allocate that funding among many projects — huge in number and scope — equitably and fairly,” Eklund says.

The senator is enthusiastic about the Buckeye Block Building project for three reasons: “First, a historic structure was destroyed. Rebuilding it will retain the historic nature of your business district, which is important for Garrettsville’s delightful downtown area. Second, I’m a believer in restoring the heritage of a community. Third, rebuilding would have a broad impact for the benefit of the entire community, not just the businesses that were lost in the fire. It would keep Garrettsville a vibrant economic pocket in Portage County.”

For the new Buckeye Block Building, Maschek envisions a two-story brick structure with 12-14 businesses on the first floor, half along Main Street, and an equal number facing a new street to the rear of the building. An arcade would cut through the center, doubling the number of businesses side to side. A community center, business offices, social & senior services and theatre would occupy the second floor. The 30,000-square-foot building would be ADA-compliant with ramped access, elevators and sprinkler systems. With construction funding from the state, rent could be offered at relatively low rates — essentially the same as in the old Buckeye Block Building — attracting business owners back to the new and improved Buckeye Block Building.

Mayor Rick Patrick says that the village has already utilized county funds for new sidewalks, historic lamp posts and some utilities along Main Street. Next year, county funds will be used to create new lighting and parking to the rear of the block.

Patrick says, “Mick Maschek has been seeking reconstruction funding from many sources since the fire. “There is a private investor who’s looking at the block; but it’s nothing concrete at this point. Senator Eklund is the only one who’s gotten back with us with any real hope. Maschek wants the community to know this isn’t dead. He’s still working on it.”