ASHLAND -- The former Hess and Clark building is to be demolished within nine months and later replaced with a data center.
In an emergency meeting Wednesday morning, Ashland City Council unanimously approved selling the 10 East 7th Street property to Abacus Industrial Development for $100 in exchange for the removal of the decaying structure.
“We are told they will have people on site by the end of the week, and we will likely see heavy equipment there on Monday or early next week,” said Mayor Matt Miller. “This building should come down a lot quicker than the pump house came down.”
The decision eliminates what Miller calls a “public safety hazard” and prompts redevelopment at the former Hess and Clark site.
Abacus Industrial Development is expected to demolish the structure -- leaving only the concrete slab -- within six to nine months after the purchase agreement is signed.
The city will not transfer ownership of the property to the developer until the demolition and cleanup are complete, according to Miller.
“They had never done a deal like that … but I explained to them some of the challenges we’ve faced with these other buildings we’ve been dealing with,” he said. “The last thing we want to do is… have to fight for years again to get ownership.”
The city of Ashland is to assist in “some of the asbestos remediation activities,” but the demolition will be entirely covered by Abacus Industrial Development.
The developer would later construct a 85,000 square-foot data center at the site. The building would house computer storage systems.
“Kind of like a quiet neighbor you don’t even know is there, but still a nice looking facility,” Miller said.
The Ashland County Land Bank and Mayor Miller had been eyeing the Hess and Clark factory since at least August 2018. The city took ownership of the property from an out-of-town owner in late 2019.
The mayor recalled conversations with demolition companies where they estimated between $900,000 to $1.4 million to remove the blighted structure.
“The city simply does not have the money to pay $1 million to tear down an old building,” Miller said.
The developer had been seeking a site Northeast Ohio and knew of Ashland because of familiarity with the Pumphouse site, Miller said.
“When they decide they are going to construct one of these data centers, time is of the essence, so they look for a site where the utilities are already there, the infrastructure is already there, it’s already zoned properly,” he said. “They want a site that they know it’s ready, that when they clean up the site, they can put up their building.”
Clean up of the Hess and Clark building was one of three "major cleanup projects" that Miller identified as top priorities when he became mayor.
The first of these projects, the Pump House cleanup, was completed in late summer. Fourth Street reopened as a two-way street in August, and the former Pump House property was seeded with grass even more recently. An "urban meadow" is planned for the future.
The former Eagle Gas Station was another of Miller's priorities. The city owns the property and is awaiting a state grant to remove the underground tanks at this site.