Future of former JA elementary in question

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Jonathan Alder officials are discussing the future of the former Plain City Elementary School building on West Main Street. The building, while no longer used as a school, is occupied by several community organizations. (Journal-Tribune photo by Mac Cordell)

Tenants in the former Jonathan Alder Elementary School building may be looking for a new home at the end of this year.
According to district superintendent, Gary Chapman, Alder officials are planning to vacate the building and property located at 340 West Main Street in Plain City by the end of 2020; however, no decisions have been made yet on how that process will unfold.
In February, the district hired SHP (formerly Steed, Hammond and Paul), an engineering firm in Columbus, to assess the building’s internal and external structure but the discussion was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Essentially we had a third-party facility assessment to see what kind of shape the building was in and what we found was that the cost to renovate the building was rather high. It was just not an option for us,” Chapman said. “The assessment gave us a lot of options, though, and costs involved for each.”
He said basic annual maintenance for the building has become “too cost prohibitive” for the district to continue.
Currently, the building costs the district between $25,000 and $35,000 annually for maintenance, Chapman said and the district collects a combined $30,000 annually from its two tenants: the Vineyard Church of Plain City and the Daily Needs Assistance (DNA) community center.
“With the rent collected that basically only makes us come out even,” Chapman said. “There are additional things that need to be taken into consideration though such as roof repairs, the age of the boilers, and the heating system. Air conditioning is currently localized to units in individual rooms and we have to consider what would go into making the building ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant.”
Chapman said the cost of the roof repairs alone would be upwards of $250,000.
Estimates from SHP showed a complete demolition of the building at $725,000 and a complete renovation at $14.8 million. Chapman said the district could “build a whole new building with comparable square footage at $15 million.”
“We were set to start these discussions in March but then the pandemic happened and it just pushed the conversation to the back burner,” Chapman said. “We would love to solicit ideas from the public and see what their input would be as far as what they would like to see happen to the property. It would be great to gather some ideas for things that don’t involve the district spending that kind of money.”
The main part of the building was built in 1937, the two story addition in 1952 and the area where DNA is located in 1965.
The Union County YMCA also uses the building for the school latchkey program which Chapman said could be relocated to the newer elementary building on South Chillicothe Street, which is where the program operated prior to moving to the Main Street location.
Members of the Plain City Historical Society as well as the local VFW post also use the building for some meetings and storage.
DNA Executive Director Tamara Reed said although she is hopeful that accommodations will be made to keep DNA going, losing their home in the current building would put the organization in a difficult position.
“Right now with the school building, we have a full commercial kitchen and not having that would be a huge loss to DNA,” Reed said. “Being able to have the space to cook and the cafeteria that can hold 200 people is hugely beneficial to what we do.”
DNA started using the elementary building in 2012 and in addition to the kitchen and cafeteria usage, the organization occupies seven classrooms which it uses for office space, storage, classroom space and daycare, Reed said.
“We also have the playground, a large parking lot with easy access. The building really is a great spot for us to be able to do what we do,” she added.
Although nothing is on the calendar, district officials hope to open up discussions to the public by the summer and have a firm decision on the future of the building sometime in the fall.



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