By Sue Botos
Old-time Rocky River residents can recall alleged activities during the early days of the Executive Club which probably could have received an “R” rating. Now, due to unsafe conditions inside of the vacant Center Ridge Road structure, the building has been rated “X.”
Signs consisting of a red square with a white “X” through it have appeared recently in windows and on doors of the Executive Club and a connected office building, both of which have been empty for more than a year. At a recent City Council meeting, Mayor Pam Bobst stated the signs had been placed by city fire prevention officer Robert Crow. “This is an extremely unsafe building,” said Bobst, adding that the signs are an international symbol meaning “do not enter.”
When reached for comment, Crow explained the signs are an alert to firefighters and other first responders. “When we find a vacant building with potential hazards to emergency responders, we give a visual indication of these hazards,” he said.
According to city fire code, the red box with the full “X” indicates conditions with the most potential for injury for firefighters. The display of this placard urges any fire control to be limited to exterior operations only. A plain red box indicates normal structural conditions, while a red box with one diagonal line means that interior firefighting procedures should be conducted with extreme caution.
Crow explained that abandoned renovation projects, started by previous occupants, have created a number of dangers for emergency responders entering the building in limited sight conditions. “Some of the floors are torn up and portions drop off,” he said, adding that an indoor pool filled with water poses another major risk.
“The roof leaks, the plumbing leaks and there was no cleanup after a water main broke, so there is also mold,” added Crow. He said, however, that the buildings are structurally sound and there is no danger of collapse.
Crow added that vandals have entered the buildings and made off with copper pipes and heating units. “If anyone wanted to renovate the building, it would need some major repairs,” commented Crow.
Despite this year’s development boom, which has seen a number of new businesses open in the city and plans for the long-vacant Rockport Shopping Center come to life, the Executive Club has remained a nemesis. The structure was built in the 1960s as an “executive men’s club” where businessmen could socialize and work out in the gym. A few businesses also opened in the stone- and glass-faced structure.
After the “men’s club” concept and tales of police raids became history, the buildings were home to a number of businesses, including law firms, insurance companies, hair salons and a health club. In March 2009, the Executive Club and neighboring office building were sold to the Kautilya Group, a New Jersey-based company, for $1,975,000.
According to city economic development Director Kory Koran, the last communication he or any city administrator had with Kautilya Group chairman and CEO Gary Patel was in March. He stated at that time, a potential offer had been made by an undisclosed source for the building, but Patel turned it down.
“Since then, he has not returned calls. He has been nonresponsive for nine months,” Koran stated. He said that as far as anyone knows, Kautilya Group still owns the property, which is in receivership.
In an e-mail sent to West Life in November 2011, Patel said that he was “exploring options” for the site, including a senior living complex. However, Patel requested financial backing from city officials, who told him that they cannot get involved with property development.
Koran said the only way the city could take drastic action is if building Commissioner Kevin Beirne condemned the buildings as structurally unsound, in which case they could be razed.
“We’re keeping on top of it,” Koran said.