Walls come tumbling down

Messenger photo by Linda Dillman
Canal Winchester Mayor Mike Ebert (left), along with Franklin County Treasurer Ed Leonard (center) and Franklin County Commissioner Paula Brooks (right),  take a ceremonial wallop with a sledgehammer before demolition crews moved in to tear down the old Parker Marathon station on Waterloo Street.

Swinging a sledgehammer with smiles on their faces, Franklin County Commissioner Paula Brooks, Canal Winchester Mayor Mike Ebert, and Franklin County Treasurer Ed Leonard celebrated the demolition of a Canal Winchester eyesore.

After a decades long struggle, the former Parker Marathon station on Waterloo Street near the heart of the village is now just a memory for many residents with the potential to serve as an example of cooperative redevelopment between the county and the village.

"I remember when this was Brownie’s Sohio," said Canal Winchester Councilwoman Marilyn Rush-Ekelberry. "The owner-operator was Dave Brown who lived in a house near the railroad tracks and operated it until Dave Parker’s father bought it. I’m sure the station was already here in the ’20s or ’30s. I remember when it was just a little wooden building with two pumps, back when they called it a filling station. There were quite a few filling stations in the village at the time."

The state took over control of the property in 2002, but the title was transferred back to Parker in 2006 before falling into the hands of the county’s Community Investment Corporation (CIC). Taxes have not been paid since 1988 and were estimated in excess of $60,000.

In 2007, Canal Winchester Village Council was told by Leonard, although the county worked with the prosecutor to get the distressed property back to a sheriff’s sale, there were no bidders. Franklin County then assumed ownership from David Parker and turned it over to the CIC, a non-profit holding company.

However, the process of renovating the downtown site was hampered by a change in procedure at the state level. The Ohio Department of Development began a new revolving loan program, but the project first needed EPA approval. Then the development department had to develop criteria before the CIC could reapply for funding.

The demolition of the site, which still contains underground storage tanks, is the first step in redeveloping the downtown location.

"This is a long, overdue, happy day in Canal Winchester," said Ebert, who told the small crowd of onlookers he came to the station when he was younger. "A lot of different administrations have been working on this and, after 20 years, I’m glad to see the building finally razed."

Leonard also said he was pleased to be a part of the solution and the ceremony, but added it was unfortunate the crumbling station took so long to be erased from the village landscape.

"When I first came on as a county commissioner, Treasurer Leonard, along with then Treasurer Richard Cordray said we really needed to do something about this," remarked Brooks. "This was our first gas station project and now we’re going to have a really nice, clean spot. I love this community and now we’re going to take this eyesore out."

The 18 W. Waterloo St. parcel consistently ranks at the top of village redevelopment lists. Proposed uses include retail, municipal, or law enforcement.

The potential sale price of the site, as well as its availability of utilities and parking, access to right-of-way, permitted uses, and community development benefit give it some desirable characteristics despite the brownfield condition of the site.

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