Structural check of downtown buildings a goal

The Rules and Ordinances Committee of City Council will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday regarding a grant to support structural evaluations of buildings in downtown Salem.

“We don’t want to lose buildings. We want to preserve as much as possible,” Salem Design Review Board chairman Ginger Grilli said.

Councilman Rick Drummond, chairman of the Rules and Ordinances Committee, said the purpose of the meeting will be to consider having an ordinance prepared to authorize Mayor John Berlin to apply for a CLG grant for the Design Review Board. The meeting will be held in the small conference room on the first floor of Salem City Hall.

CLG stands for Certified Local Government. The city qualifies as a CLG due to a historic preservation ordinance already put in place years ago and is eligible to apply for the grant funding through the Ohio Historic Preservation Office.

Drummond said the application is due Feb. 1, so depending on what the committee decides, there may have to be a special meeting called for city council to act.

Grilli said the maximum amount of funds that can be requested is $24,999. The grant requires a 40 percent match by the local entity, in this case the Design Review Board, but according to Grilli, they have different sources already lined up for the match. The request will require no funding from the city.

According to the Ohio Historic Preservation Office web site, the grant covers 60 percent of the project cost and the 40 percent match can come from any combination of cash, in-kind and donated services and materials.

Grilli said the project will be done in two phases, with a team of local volunteers looking at the buildings both inside and out. She confirmed that they’ll only be able to go inside buildings where they’ve secured the permission of the building owners to do an evaluation.

The initial evaluation will identify up to 12 buildings with historic significance and questionable structural integrity, with the grant paying for a detailed evaluation of those buildings by a structural engineer.

The building corridor stretches from Lincoln Avenue to Ellsworth Avenue and Pershing Street to Second Street, with an estimated 96 buildings in that area. Last summer, a group of people consisting of city council members, Salem Preservation Society members, Design Review Board members and members of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce completed a walking tour of downtown looking at buildings from the outside.

There’s been a lot of talk in recent months about downtown revitalization, with a Technical Advisory Committee working on a project aimed at revitalizing the downtown and getting buildings rehabilitated and able to be fully used.

Grilli said there have been concerns that the city could lose a number of buildings. They want to preserve what they can preserve.

Mary Ann Greier can be reached at