On Wednesday, Feb. 17, the Mentor Public Library Board of Trustees voted to enter into a contract with ProSupply Inc. for the abatement and demolition of the Read House building. CT Consultants – the architect on the project – recommended ProSupply as the lowest responsible bidder, pending final contract approval from legal review.
The contract, if finalized, is in the amount of $54,434, including a $5,000 contingency. The contract will likely take several weeks to finalize. Consequently, no timeline for the building’s demolition is presently available.
The Read House – the building specifically, not the property on which it stands – has been available for purchase for 18 months. However, the library hasn’t received any offers.
Parts of the Read House are more than a century old, and the building would need extensive repairs if it were to continue being used by the public. While it’s difficult to guess how much renovation would cost because any repairs might require asbestos or lead-paint abatement, we conservatively estimate that it would require at least $200,000 for the building to meet public-safety standards.
The Read Property is located next door to our Main Branch at 8245 Mentor Ave. The library purchased it in 2009.
The Read House lawn provides a unique opportunity to offer outdoor library programming. We’ve used its lawn and surrounding green space to host concerts, campfires, community art projects, story times, scavenger hunts, nature journaling programs, Summer Reading parties, and more. More than 11,000 of our patrons have attended programs there.
Meanwhile, the Read House building, built in 1868, has presented numerous challenges. Additions and repairs were made over a ten-year time period to try to make the private house more usable for the public, including:
- Making the building’s first floor ADA compliant, including adding an entry ramp
- Adding structural supports to the building’s basement so it could handle the increased foot traffic and weight once the private home was opened to the public
- Lead paint and asbestos abatement that was completed during all previous repairs
Despite these renovations, it was still difficult to make a previously private home serve as a public building. The small rooms on the main floor could not be reconfigured because the walls are loadbearing. And the second floor does not have ADA access, nor can it structurally support anything more than light storage.
As a result, the use of the building has been limited. Book sales were held on the first floor and the front room was used for small group weekly children’s story time. Even then, the building’s small rooms and narrow halls presented obstacles to patrons, especially those with mobility issues.
Even before the pandemic, we’d moved all library programming and book sales from inside the Read House Building to our Main Branch.
Evaluation of the structure
In 2018, the library contracted with a construction company and an architect to assess how to make the house more usable to the public for library programming.
The company and architect recommended several repairs, including:
- The front porch needed to be taken down and replaced.
- The foundation required masonry repair work.
- Cracking plaster in the walls and ceiling needed to be repaired.
- Old and potentially leaking siding and windows needed to be replaced.
The library hired a specialist who confirmed that lead paint was present and asbestos was in the walls. While safe to be inside, any potential structural repair inside the Read House building would require costly asbestos and lead paint abatement.
CT Consultants estimated the potential repairs would cost at least $117,000; Greater Cleveland Consultants estimated at least $134,500. Neither estimate includes contingencies, including asbestos or lead-paint abatement. We estimate the cost of repairs and needed contingencies and abatement at around $200,000
The current value of the home is $49,270 according to the Lake County Auditor’s Office.
The library investigated possible funding sources – including reaching out to the state – to help pay for renovations, but none were found. Ultimately, it was deemed cost-prohibitive to renovate the building.
This left the library with two more options: sell the building or demolish it.
The Read House building – the building specifically, and not the property on which it stands – has been available for purchase for 18 months. However, the library hasn’t received any offers. The library also contacted the Lake County History Center and Cleveland Restoration Society. While both organizations helpfully shared their expertise, neither were able to help find funds for renovation or were interested in procuring the building themselves.
Without other options, the Board voted to contract with ProSupply Inc. for abatement and demolition of the Read House Building. The library will continue to use the surrounding property for outdoor programming.
Additionally, the library is researching ways in which some furnishings can be preserved from the building. A local carpenter is interested in repurposing parts of the building to make unique furniture. Also, the Lake County History Center has expressed interest in potentially preserving some unique interior furnishings.