By Eileen Patton
The leadership at the NASA John H. Glenn Research Center has determined that two large office buildings, known as Buildings 500 and 501, will be completely vacated by July 1. This office complex was built in the early 1960s and totals approximately 165,000 square feet.
This once prosperous area, located in the city of Fairview Park directly across from the NASA Glenn campus, contributed $800,000 in income tax revenue to the city. Over a period of time, NASA Glenn began moving all the civil servants across the street to the Glenn campus located in another city, leaving vendors only in the buildings.
On March 22, we were notified by the chief counsel at the Glenn Research Center that the buildings are scheduled for preservation-level maintenance and utility usage only. In other words, this once flourishing economic engine in the Greater Cleveland area will become a ghost town.
These buildings have been turned over to the General Services Administration for disposal. Over the past year the city of Fairview Park has, with great effort, attempted to work with NASA Glenn and the GSA in the transfer of this land to the city of Fairview Park for a nominal amount of $1 or a sale of this land to an identified private developer provided that the site is environmentally clean with electrical power service. In both cases the GSA declined the offers and will be placing this property for sale via public auction.
GSA has appraised the buildings and valued the assets at $2.5 million. Both buildings are significantly environmentally challenged and by NASA’s own estimates it will take $7 million to clean up the asbestos-containing material in both buildings and demolish Building 501. The economic reality is the buildings’ price of $2.5 million, plus the cost of remediation, renders the asset uncompetitive.
This NASA site was the largest contributor to our income base in the city of Fairview Park, generating over $800,000. As we struggle to keep our police and firefighters on the streets, this blow to our general fund is devastating. We have been told by NASA Glenn and the GSA that the reason for closure of this area is the federal government not having the funds to maintain this property any longer.
Imagine our shock when we read in our local Cleveland Plain Dealer on April 3: “GSA’s chief resigns over Las Vegas bash – Martha Johnson, chief of the General Services Administration, quit Monday over an agency meeting at a Las Vegas hotel that cost $823,000 in 2010. President Barack Obama was ‘outraged by the excessive spending’ said Jacob Lew, his chief of staff.”
This is more than an outrage. The actions by the director of the GSA highlight the total disregard that the GSA has for the hardworking people of the Greater Cleveland area. This news comes off the heels of a two-day series on a local TV station in our area reporting that hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on redecorating and beverages for meetings at the NASA Glenn site.
This frivolous spending of $823,000 at a Las Vegas “bash,” along with the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent in the hands of the NASA Glenn folks for redecorating, makes the residents of the city of Fairview Park and the greater Cleveland area question the decisions that are allowed to be made with our federal tax dollars.
Our greatest fear is that the GSA will place this property for sale via public auction and they will not accept offers that reflect today’s marketplace, thus, allowing this property to remain in a state of “for sale” for years to come.
This administration realizes the significant economic benefit that this area has to the future economy of the city of Fairview Park and to the Greater Cleveland area. We have sent our message to the president along with a letter to every elected Ohio state and federal official that we remain outraged by this recent news and we will continue to send our message to the GSA to market this property in a timely manner with a realistic market value, so that this once thriving business area can contribute once again to the economy of our communities. Our future depends on it.
(Editor’s note: Eileen Patton has served as mayor of Fairview Park since January 2000. West Life invited Patton to write a guest column based on a letter she sent to nearly 60 elected officials in Ohio about the NASA property.)