CW seeks to buy former McDorman auto museum for city use

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By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

A site on East Waterloo Street in Canal Winchester – which was once a lumberyard and later became a 23,700 square foot automobile museum – could become a hub for city operations.

After closed door sessions with Canal Winchester City Council throughout the summer, Mayor Mike Ebert signed an intent to purchase agreement for $2.4 million with Alice McDorman for the McDorman automobile museum site. The building was initially listed at $3.2 million.

Bob McDorman opened the auto museum at 45 E. Waterloo St. in the summer of 2014. He passed away less than a year later in spring 2015. The museum closed at the end of 2016 and the inventory was liquidated in 2017.

On Dec. 2, council started the next step in the process by discussing a proposed ordinance finalizing the agreement and scheduling an open public meeting on Dec. 16 at 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall, 10 N. High St., to review the proposed purchase with the community.

The city has until February to make a final decision on the agreement.

Canal Winchester Development Director Lucas Haire said, if the city agrees to purchase the 1.29-acre parcel and structure, the adjoining Frances Steube Community Center, currently located at 22 S. Trine St., would move to the new site and the 1980s-era community center building would be torn down to make way for additional parking.

“It (McDorman building) would solve a number of issues space related,” Haire said, regarding cramped quarters at the current municipal building. “We have a storage challenge—a lot of running back and forth between buildings. We have a number of security issues it would solve and provide adequate parking.”

Haire said the contract contains a clause for seller financing on a 10-year term at 4 percent interest. The city would make quarterly payments of approximately $73,000 and is compelled by terms of the contract to name the complex the Bob McDorman Building.

“Acquiring this building…keeps us in the heart of the city,” continued Haire, who said past studies indicated the city could spend as much as $6 million if it acquired land elsewhere and built a new municipal structure from scratch.

Haire estimated the city will need to spend an additional $2 million to renovate the McDorman building to install more windows, office space, additional heating and cooling systems, council chambers, etc.

A central corridor would offer north and south entrances and a portion of the present canopy would be enclosed. The community center would be located in the western third of the building and open space on the east side would be leased out to a tenant complementing municipal operations.

“The intent in the future is to enter into a design-build contract similar to what was done with the public service building,” said Haire.

Canal Winchester Finance Director Amanda Jackson said funding for the proposed new municipal complex would come from the general fund. A current $300,000 debt payment rolls off this year, which could be replaced by the payments for the McDorman building.

“Our general fund balance is almost a year’s worth of expenses, so we’re in a good place to take on debt,” said Jackson.

Councilman Will Bennett said that all of the new development surrounding the city allows Canal Winchester to engage in projects like a new municipal building without having to tap into additional funds.

City officials indicated that the current municipal building at 36 S. High St. and Town Hall at 10 N. High St. could be repurposed for other city needs, but the exact future of these two buildings is still to be determined.

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