ASHLAND - Visible progress is being made this week at the former Pump House Ministries complex, where crews from Page Demolition and Excavating are demolishing everything north of Fourth Street from Orange Street to Union Street.
Jeff Page owns the excavating company with his wife, Landa. Page said while the company has been working at the site about a month and a half, this is the point when passersby will really begin to notice.
Before the actual demolition could begin, Page had to prepare the site by removing anything that contained asbestos, such as windows and floor tiles.
The company also had to confine rubble that contained asbestos-contaminated materials underneath a large, blue tarp on the northwest side of the property. That material had been improperly handled when Pump House Ministries still owned the property, city leaders said in April.
Page said his company hauled 40 roll-off dumpsters of trash out of the largest structure on the site-- the multi-story building that was once the F.E. Myers Pump Company factory and then was home to Landoll's Inc. before it was given to Pump House Ministries.
According to Page, much of the trash appeared to have been donations to the ministry that had sat too long in the deteriorating building and were no longer in usable condition.
The Pages did find several boxes of clothing in good condition in one of the warehouses and is offering to give them to anyone who may have a use for them. The items include numerous baseball shirts and chef's jackets as well as pants and jackets that look like medical scrubs, Landa page said. Anyone interested in the items may call 419-892-3770.
In addition to finding trashed donations throughout the property, Page also noticed many materials of value had been stripped from the buildings, including copper and electrical components.
"They probably took several hundred thousand dollars worth of copper out," Page said.
Page went on to explain the reasons for some of the delays in the project.
Working with the EPA to ensure the cleanup was done properly required a few of what Page referred to as "hurry up and wait" situations, Page said. Then the company had to take a break from the Pump House project to complete another major demolition project-- the tear down of the former YMCA in Mansfield.
Finally, this week, demolition began in earnest at the Pump House site.
Page expects the two warehouse structures near Union Street to be down by the end of the week, along with the rest of a partially-demolished brick building behind the warehouses.
Demolition of the large factory building is expected to begin early next week. Page said it will take about a month to bring the entire structure to the ground and then another week to crush the concrete left behind.
Everything from Page's project will be hauled off the site with help from Bartley & Bolin.
The tarp-covered rubble from the previous partial demolition will remain for the time being, as that could cost about $1 million to clear, according to Page.
Mayor Matt Miller was pleased with what he saw when he stopped by the site Wednesday to see the progress and talk with the contractor.
"This whole project is so symbolic of a new day in the city of Ashland," Miller said. "For countless years, we all stood by and watched these buildings continue to deteriorate and collapse. Finally, here in a matter of days, this will all be gone."
The city has agreed to pay Page up to $436,000 to complete the project.
Following demolition, Miller said, the city will have several inches of top soil brought onto the sight and then will seed the property with grass.
"Right now, what we're looking at doing in this location is creating what is referred to as an urban meadow," Miller said. "It is one of the most affordable routes we can take given that there is some uncertainty about what might be in the soils below."
Miller described the urban meadow concept as a cross between a rural landscape and modern, urban art.
"For those of us that have grown up in and around the country, it's a modern twist on a beautiful farmer's field planted with something like wheat or oats," Miller said. "It incorporates walking paths and occasional ornamental trees."
Though no plans have been finalized, Miller offered examples of what the space might look like.
"Maybe this whole parcel is divided into several quadrants by a paved walking path, and then every so often throughout those paths are benches and maybe several major trees planted throughout. Maybe a great big oak tree or a maple tree," Miller said.
Miller said he hopes the city and its partners can transform what he is referring to as the Pump House Corridor into a vibrant area that includes new housing.
According to Miller, a developer has expressed a strong interest in building 32 market-rate, townhouse-style apartments in an L-shape on the southwest corner of Fourth and Union Streets. Adjacent to the Fourth Street Laundromat, the potential apartment site is the former home of a garage that recently was torn down by Bartley & Bolin at the city's request.
"Hopefully as we are able to bring more and more people into living spaces along Fourth Street, that makes this a very peaceful setting for them to relax in and gather in to contribute to the quality of life of this area," Miller said of the urban meadow.
Miller indicated the former Hess and Clark building, located just north of the Pump House complex, is also on the city's radar for potential demolition.
"We are aware of some of the activities taking place in that building, and law enforcement is aware of them as well," Miller said. "The sooner we can dispose of that facility the better."
The mayor said several developers and entrepreneurs have gone through the Hess and Clark building and have discussed whether a portion of the building could be saved and turned into office space. At this point, Miller thinks salvaging the building is unlikely.
"More and more it is appearing that the best solution there is to get rid of that building because the cost and condition simply don't support the idea of remodeling," Miller said.
The building's owner, who lives out of state, is willing to give the building to the city, Miller said, but city leaders are not yet sure whether city ownership is the best next step for the property.