To make room for some additional development in downtown Willoughby, the city is in the process of tearing down Building C on what was formerly called the Willoughby Eastlake Tech Center.
Willoughby Tech, 25 E. Spaulding St., included the Memorial Junior High School, now the headquarters for ThenDesign Architecture, and the Union High School building, which is being rehabilitated into one- and two-bedroom apartments by the Liberty Development Company.
“The plan was for that building (Building C) to come down to make room for some residential development,” said Tom Thielman, economic development director. “It doesn’t have any historical significance and is basically a block building that had the automotive repair school in it.”
As far as what will replace Building C, nothing has been submitted for review at this time, Thielman said.
TDA reimagined and repurposed the Memorial Junior High School building for its headquarters last year. The process to repurpose the school building began with a series of questions to TDA staff about how the staff wanted to work and collaborate.
“We went through what’s important to us as a company and what’s important to us as a culture, and the very first thing we decided was we wanted to be in Lake County,” TDA President Chris Smith previously told The News-Herald. “Secondly, we fell in love with Willoughby. It made a lot of sense as a development entity to come through and do this.”
TDA staff looked at the school building as a series of four different types of space, which included public and private spaces, as well as spaces for working alone or working together. In addition, when staff walked through the building for the first time, they saw bits and pieces of things they decided to keep during the repurposing process — lockers, school building brick and one, old-fashioned cafeteria table in the former gym that comes folding out of the wall.
“It’s a story of a home-grown firm founded in the city,” Mayor Robert Fiala previously told The News-Herald. “The former mayor of Willoughby, Dave Anderson, pushed the button on this.”
The Union High restoration project will mark Liberty Development’s first project in Willoughby. The full-service, real estate development, management construction company has been actively looking for a project in the city for the last five years. In that time, the company has gotten to know the Willoughby community, Dru Siley, vice president of development, previously told The News-Herald.
“Culturally for Willoughby, the Union High building has been part of its downtown district for more than 100 years,” he said. “Finding a good use for it and give it its next life for the next 100 years is going to be a critical component to protecting the character of the downtown.”