Former East Liverpool School Razed, Making Way for Development

EAST LIVERPOOL – A piece of the city’s educational history went under the wrecking ball Tuesday afternoon with an eye to economic development in the East End.

After more than two years of planning and preparation work, demolition began on the former East Junior High School on Maryland Avenue.

The school was built in 1954 and served students until 1982, after which it was opened sporadically for various purposes until it permanently closed in 2017, standing vacant since. 

The property had been swapped by the school district to the city in 2012 for land near Pope Street. Then in 2022, the city transferred the property to the nonprofit Community Improvement Corporation for development purposes.

In April 2022, Ohio Lt. Gov. John Husted visited the city to award a $1.1 million brownfield remediation grant to the Columbiana County Land Reutilization Corp., more commonly known as the Columbiana County Land Bank, to be used for asbestos remediation and demolition of the school building.

According to Haedan Panezott, executive director of the Columbiana County Land Bank, the cost of removing approximately 25 square miles of asbestos from the structure by Howland Co. of Boardman cost $367,445, which also includes the cost of consultants and engineering, while the demolition itself, by M&M Demolition/Excavating Inc. of Vienna, will cost $345,070. 

Panezott emphasized that with plans calling for development of the six acres of flat acreage once the demolition is complete, compaction testing will take place to make sure the property is ready for its future use, which he anticipates will require more of the available grant funding.

“I’m really glad to see this project get started,” Panezott said, pointing out the planning has taken a year and a half. “That school sat vacant 10 to 20 years and is definitely not salvageable.”

He said making sure the compaction testing is completed will ensure the Community Improvement Corporation can meet its goal.

“The city really wants to see it developed,” he said.

Mayor Greg Bricker was at the site Tuesday, fielding questions from the media and watching the demolition, which fits into his plans for ridding the city of blight and encouraging new housing.

He said while there are as yet no plans in place for the property, he would like to see housing considered.

“Housing has been my focus all along,” he said.

Officials have been reaching out to developers regarding the possibilities for the property, according to Bricker, who conceded that “it is sad it has to come down.”

From left, Cindy Grimm, Mary Anderson and Bob Swogger watch as their former school is reduced to rubble.

Along the sidewalks on the quiet street, a few people gathered to watch the demolition, most of whom had attended classes in the building.

Mary Anderson said she attended grade school across the street, and hers was the first class to use the new junior high school.

“Mine was the first class. I went from Horace Mann [School] across the street to East Junior. When I left [for 10th grade], I went to high school downtown,” Anderson said as she watched the walls of her former school falling to the ground. “I just wanted to come see it.”

Cindy Grimm, a 1971 graduate, also watched the action, remembering her years at the school before going to high school “on the hill.”

Bob Swogger said he started at East Junior in seventh grade in 1956 and left as a freshman to attend high school at Central High School downtown, from which he graduated. 

“I walked here every day. I was born and raised on Oakland Avenue,” Swogger said, saying he rode past the abandoned school recently “and it was just sitting.”

Representing the 1st Ward where the school building stood, Councilman Tom Beagle also stopped by to watch the demolition, saying, “I’m glad to see it go. Out with the old and in with the new.”

He also said that while there are no definitive plans for the property, officials should be “very picky” about future development at the site.

“It’s a neighborhood, and it should remain a neighborhood,” he said.

Beagle also reminisced about attending college in the building when it served that purpose for a short period of time.

According to the demolition crew, work at the site should be completed within a couple weeks, although the tear-down permit obtained from the city affords the company until July 31 as a completion date. The work will include tearing down the structure, cementing and sealing all sewer laterals, removing all debris and applying top soil and grass seed. 

One worker said they had experienced no problems during the first few hours of demolition.

“Let’s keep it like that,” he said.

Pictured at top: A large portion of the former East Junior High School was demolished Tuesday, with work expected to be completed in about two weeks.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.