By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Brick by brick and board by board, bulldozers are changing the landscape along East Wooster Street in Bowling Green.
The demolition of the old houses is seen by some as a blessing for the future – while others view it as a loss of the city’s past
The city of Bowling Green received five demolition permit requests at the end of last month for houses across from Bowling Green State University. Those houses – at 926, 930, 1010, 1024 and 1030 East Wooster Street – are now at various stages of demolition.
The owner of 1010 E. Wooster St. is listed as BGSU, while the owner of the other four locations is Centennial Falcon Properties, an entity established by BGSU seven years ago to finance the construction of residence halls.
There are no specific immediate proposals for the lots where the homes are being demolished, according to Dave Kielmeyer, spokesperson for the university.
“There are currently no plans for the properties. The sites will be seeded this spring and remain green spaces for the foreseeable future,” Kielmeyer said last week.
Some local residents have lamented the loss of old homes across from the university – especially the house that sat back off the street on the southwest corner of Crim and East Wooster. That home was reportedly built in 1840 using locally quarried stone.
The city’s planning department sees BGSU’s efforts as a step in the right direction to clean up the East Wooster corridor to the city. Some of the homes being torn down were non-conforming uses, since they were zoned as single-family residential but were being used for student rentals.
The homes were “not all in tip-top shape,” Bowling Green Planning Director Heather Sayler said.
The houses being demolished had suffered the wear and tear of being rentals to college students – and in some cases had reputations as being major “party” houses and eyesores along East Wooster Street.
At the beginning of the school year each fall, the city’s mayor and university’s president walk the neighborhood along East Wooster Street and ask the latest batch of student renters to be respectful of those living nearby, driving through and going to school.
The city and university have been working together for years to try to create a better first impression for people as they enter the city from Interstate 75 on East Wooster Street.
This is not the first section of rental housing that BGSU has taken steps to reform.
In the fall of 2016, BGSU bought two rental properties at 141 and 145 Troup Avenue, just off East Wooster Street for $280,000. The two houses are being used as forensic investigation scenario houses.
The university also purchased two empty business properties at 904 and 908 East Wooster Street for $351,000. The buildings on the corner of South College Avenue, have been used as a bookstore and a variety of other purposes over the years.
Kielmeyer said those properties were purchased as part of the city’s and university’s ongoing plans to improve the East Wooster corridor leading from the intersection of I-75 into downtown Bowling Green.
The university is “buying in anticipation of what we might do there,” Kielmeyer said in 2016. He described it as “a strategic property acquisition. Those are important properties in our plans.”
The city and university recently received a report from a firm called Development Strategies that was hired to examine the 1.8 miles of East Wooster from I-75 to the downtown. The firm spent six months interviewing officials and residents, examining housing data, looking at construction costs, studying the zoning code, and more.
City leaders were told that changes along the East Wooster corridor have the potential to increase jobs, bring more visitors, improve the housing stock, attract more development to the city, and convince more people to live and shop right here in Bowling Green.
But in order to do that a serious facelift is needed, the study showed.
The study identified the area directly across from BGSU and near the Falcon Health Center as being best used for “Eds and Meds.” That area would work well for other health care services, senior housing, and townhouses.
In May of 2017, the BGSU Board of Trustees put $1 million in a fund that allowed the university to purchase neighboring properties as they became available without requiring further approval from the trustees.
In October of 2017, the university board added another $1 million to the fund. It was noted that some of the purchases will be made through the BGSU Foundation and Centennial Falcon Properties.