Manchester Inn, Sonshine Building in Middletown to get cleaned out

Vickers Demolition awarded contract to remove debris from downtown properties.

The city of Middletown is spending $112,000 for the clean-out of two city-owned downtown properties in hopes of making them more attractive to potential developers and less attractive to the homeless.

City Council unanimously approved the legislation Tuesday night after it was changed to an emergency so the work can be completed sooner.

Vickers Demolition, of Trenton, was awarded the contract to clean out the Manchester Inn, 1027 Manchester Ave., and Sonshine Building, 101 N. Main St.

Vickers, which has done extensive work for the city, submitted the lowest of the three bids the city received, according to city documents. The other bids: CJG Property Services ($125,000) and EDG Environmental Demolition Group ($128,000).

City Manager Paul Lolli said Vickers will remove any remaining furniture/bedding, trash, debris or any other loose items. He said the clean-out of the Manchester Inn will reduce the “fire load.” He’s concerned about the damage that could be done if a squatter started a fire in the 100-year-old Manchester that closed in January 2011.

Vice Mayor Monica Nenni said during a tour of the Manchester Inn it was evident a homeless person had lived in one of the guest rooms for “quite some time.”

It’s projected that the clean-out will take approximately two months, according to city documents.

Vickers has performed the demolition of the former Montgomery Ward building, 2403 Central Ave., two years ago, and the former Studio Theatre, 1347 Central Ave., four years ago.

The five-story Manchester Inn is included on the National Register of Historic Places and has 119 rooms and is approximately 60,000 square feet.. The three-story Sonshine Building is on the National Register and is about 32,000 square feet.

Assistant City Manager Nathan Cahall said city leaders held a zoom meeting on Wednesday morning with a potential developer of several downtown properties.

The future of the Manchester has been a contentious topic for years that cost the city $161,824.60 it paid to the owner of the property and his attorneys that constituted reimbursement of expenses for his years of ownership of the buildings, according to city documents.

In May 2021, the city settled with William Grau, the owner and developer of the Manchester and Sonshine Building, and his attorneys.

Grau bought the Manchester and Snider from the city for $1 each in 2014 with the intent of renovating the properties into a hotel and brewery/distillery and restaurant. The development agreement called for the project to be completed within two years, by late 2016.

The project cost was estimated at nearly $40.3 million, according to Ohio Development Services Agency information.

But Grau never secured the necessary funds and the properties continued to deteriorate.

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