Monday morning, Page Excavating began to tear down the former YMCA building. Owner Jeff Page estimated the process will take nearly a month.

MANSFIELD – At 8:30 a.m. Monday, Mansfield Mayor Tim Theaker and others from the city gathered outside the former Mansfield YMCA building at 455 Park Ave. West to watch as Page Excavating began tearing down the building. 

The demolition process began in early November with asbestos removal, but the exterior was largely untouched before Monday morning. 

"It's mixed emotions," Theaker said while waiting for the demolition to begin. "Because when I was younger, I used to go here. I've brought my daughters here.

"Yes, it's an eyesore, it needs to come down, I'm glad it's happening, but it's an era that's gone now."

Page Excavating began in the back of the three-story building and work forward towards Park Avenue, business owner, Jeff Page said. He estimates the process will take about a month and will result in at least the temporary closure of Bartley Avenue later in the demolition.

"We'll try to leave it open 90 percent of the time ... Once we get further down, up so high, I'll have to close it for a few hours of the day," Page said. 

At the mayor's request, Page Excavating will aim to save tiles with donor names and the building's cornerstones -- one with a date and another reading "Mansfield YMCA." 

The parking lot's pavement will also be razed, allowing for the entire property to be turned into green space.

According to Theaker, the building was condemned about three years ago based on an inspection of the exterior. The front of the building was caving in, he explained.

"We realized it was really not that safe, so we condemned it and started the process. It takes a long time for these things to work out legally and to get the processes in place," Theaker said. 

He later was able to go inside the building and see how it had been destroyed. Doors, windows, toilets and more were smashed. Ashes were found in the gymnasium from where books were apparently burned. 

The building on Park Avenue West was constructed in the 1950's and expanded in the 1960s, Theaker recalled. After Mansfield's YMCA moved to Scholl Road, the building on Park Avenue was used as a school, and later it sold to someone who supposedly promised to transform the space into apartments. That scenario never took place.

Earlier this year, Mansfield City Council designated $500,000 in PRIDE tax dollars to demolish the former YMCA, the former church and a structure at 465 S. Diamond Street. PRIDE tax dollars, a 0.25 percent income tax that is partially designated for building demolition, was approved by voters in 2014 and renewed in the May 2017 election.

However, the cost of the demolition is assessed to the property.

"The individuals don't benefit from taxpayer money to tear a building down and then turn around and sell it," Theaker said.

He anticipates that the property will ultimately be foreclosed on at a later time. 

"It's premature to say something about (its future), but I think there's going to be possibilities," Theaker said.

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