POLAND, Ohio (WKBN) — Wednesday night in Poland a citizens group called ‘TownOne Streetscapes’ made a presentation to the Poland Board of Education about their plan for the Poland Union School.
The group wants to form a non-profit to take ownership of the currently-vacant building and turn it into a community center.
TownOne Streetscapes has been involved in more than 20 community projects in Poland including the clock tower, square and library.
We would have a variety of activities here from restaurants to fitness classes to all kinds of non-profits in here,” said Bob Mastriana of TownOne Streetscapes.
Mastriana outlined TownOne Streetscapes’ plan for the 141-year-old building, saying they would want a non-profit to take over the building, establish a board of directors and allow residents to rent and use the space.
Mastriana says TownOne’s plan could turn the Poland Union building into a money-maker instead of a money pit. Currently, the district spends more than $50,000 a year to maintain it.
“The building is 46,000 square feet. There are 25,000 of it is for lease. And if we lease that at below-market rates of, say, perhaps $10 a square foot … then the amount of income generated would 23,000 a month and then up to 225,000 a year,” Mastriana said.
One new concern is that a very old statute the Board recently discovered requires the site to be used for educational purposes only.
“We also located a deed restriction from 160 years ago that says it has to be used for educational purposes. So that is complicated. It was an old handwritten document,” said Craig Hockenberry, superintendent of Poland Local Schools.
Mastriana said TownOne Streetscapes’s plan for a community center would satisfy that requirement, but board members still had questions: like will TownOne be able to raise enough money to convert an outdated school into a modern community center?
“When we did the library, we raised locally through the community, we raised $1,000,000 and that was done through corporation sponsorships and legacy projects for rooms,” Mastriana said.
The Poland Board of Education has not come to a decision yet. They plan to hold one more meeting to hear community input.