MANSFIELD — It turns out Skilken Gold officials were right. Their building that once housed the Kingsgate Cinema does need to be torn down.

Now the City of Mansfield has ordered that work to be done.

The wheels of that May 3 demolition order began rolling with a Richland County Land Bank meeting last month. 

That’s when Skilken representatives Julie Elker and Eric Elizondo expressed interest in the Land Bank applying for state demolition grant funds to help fund the work.

The duo presented a $490,000 proposal that would demolish the former theater at 1300 Park Ave. West, as well as the adjoining former J.C. Penney store at 1290 Park Ave. West.

Their plan would convert the west wall of the Volunteers of America store, 1280 Park Ave. West, into an exterior wall. They showed photos of the building interiors during the meeting.

However, Land Bank members made it clear the proposal was a “non-starter” unless Skilken Gold forfeited the property to the agency. The company representatives said they would take the idea back to Skilken Gold leaders.

Land Bank manager Amy Hamrick said Skilken had contacted her via phone since the meeting, but nothing had been resolved.

Marc Milliron, the city’s building and codes manager, attends Land Bank meetings. His ears perked up when Elken told members the former theater, vacant for more than 20 years, has excessive asbestos and mold and needs extensive environmental abatement.

She said the roof is in poor condition, leading to interior water damage. Elken also said the building lacks electrical systems and functioning restrooms.

Kingsgate interior 1

Milliron said Monday Elken was correct, facts borne out when he and building inspector Tim Brinley inspected the site April 28.

“She was right. It needs to be demolished,” he said. “The outside didn’t appear to show too much going on. (Her comments at the Land Bank meeting) are definitely what got our attention.

“The major issue is the lack of maintenance. It’s so deteriorated with mold … and structurally has a lot of concerns. It would be very expensive to bring it back to a functioning building,” Milliron said.

Richland Source contacted Elker by phone on Monday morning. She said the call would be returned by someone who could speak to the issues, but the call had not been returned by the time this story was published.

Kingsgate Cinema demolition order

The demolition order states the building “has been deemed unfit for human habitation due to unsafe and unsanitary living conditions” and is in violation of the city ordinance regarding “minimum sanitation standards.”

During the inspection, Brinley noted there is “severe structural damage throughout, dilapidated interior with excessive mold, failed heating, plumbing, and electrical system. Non-sprinklered building.”

Kingsgate interior 2

In a checklist, Brinley noted the following failed areas:

Roof — “Roof condition is poor, allowing water to gain access to the interior.”

Electrical system — “Failed electrical systems due to neglect, outdated system will need fully refurbished.”

Exterior doors — “Poor condition due to neglected use and lack of utilities.”

Exterior foundation walls — “Cracks throughout the walls, mainly block with brick veneer.”

Exterior stairways, decks, porches and balconies — “Entrance canopy in poor condition, support to building/main structure and anchorage is poor.”

Exterior structure — “Exterior envelope in poor condition, several cracks throughout the building’s envelope.”

General plumbing — “Completely failed, the plumbing is non-existent.”

Handrails and guards — “Poor condition.”

Heating facilities — “Poor condition, furnace room in poor condition.”

Mechanical appliances — “Failed, no heat. System will need to be completely replaced.”

Milliron said Skilken Gold, which can appeal the demolition order to the local planning commission, has 30 days to demolish and clean up the site.

“Or they can sit back and do nothing and let us proceed,” Milliron said, adding the city would assess the costs to the company if it has to do the work.

Richland County Commissioner Tony Vero, a member of the Land Bank, said the organization was surprised Skilken Gold “literally created a public record” inviting Mansfield Codes and Permits to inspect the property.

“I am not sure who made the call on that, but we were stunned that they publicly shared how bad a condition their building is in,” he said Monday afternoon. “Not only did they do that, but they also thought the Land Bank was willing to demolish the property and allow their group to retain ownership.

“It was shocking in many facets,” he said.

Kingsgate interior

Milliron said the vacant, two-story building at 1290 Park Ave. West (the former J.C. Penney structure) was also inspected April 28 and doesn’t need to be demolished. He said it needs a new roof, but structurally is “still pretty decent.”

“It’s actually in good shape. They have gutted (the interior) and cleaned it up. There are some issues with the roof leaking and it has an old, outdated furnace that would probably be expensive to run.”

The Kingsgate Shopping Center was built in 1964 and purchased by Skilken in 1984.

Elker told the Land Bank that Skilken Gold had done general maintenance on the property, but refrained from significant investments due to a lack of interest in the area.

Chuck Hahn, Cleveland Financial Group, invests in this independent reporting through a Newsroom Partnership. Learn more about Newsroom Partnerships.

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City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when...

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