Thursday, February 20, 2003

Development exec: Raze old Owens Corning office

The Associated Press

TOLEDO, Ohio - The former home of Owens Corning, once a shining example of the city's downtown revitalization, is in such bad shape it should be torn down, says the region's top economic development official.

The 30-story building has been empty for seven years since the company known for its Pink Panther mascot and pink insulation built another headquarters a few blocks away. Attempts to fill Fiberglas Tower with state offices, a health club and high-tech startup businesses all failed.

Broken water pipes soaked much of the building three weeks ago, leaving a cascading sheet of ice on the outside walls.

"I think every option has been exhausted," said Don Jakeway, head of the Regional Growth Partnership. "Here's a building that has a lot of integrity to it and served the community well, and now it's a dinosaur."

The building needs a major renovation to remove asbestos, update the heating and air conditioning systems and install new fire sprinklers, Jakeway said.

Sam and Lou Eyde, two brothers from Michigan, bought the tower and a nearby building in 1998 from a real estate investor for $4.5 million.

They are trying to sell the tower and think it could still be filled with apartments and offices.

"We are in no way, shape, or form giving up on that building," said Mark Clouse, a lawyer for the brothers.

Jakeway said he wants local governments to join with the Eydes to help tear the building down at a cost of $10 million to $12 million.

The building with bronze-tinted glass once housed a thousand employees and a fancy restaurant where deals were brokered by the city's movers and shakers.

It was built 24 years ago for $15 million by a group of Toledo investors and a Columbus developer. It is still Toledo's second-tallest building, topped only by the Owens-Illinois building.

Owens Corning leased it and did away with traditional offices. Instead, it put in workspaces separated by divider screens to spur more worker interaction.

But by the mid-1990s, Owens Corning decided it would cost too much to try to refurbish the tower and built a new $100 million campus-like complex.

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