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Crews demolishing building for new library find forgotten basement

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    Workers and officials meet Tuesday to discuss how to proceed at the site of the future Elyria Public Library System's Central Branch on East Avenue in Elyria.



ELYRIA — Demolition is scheduled to begin today on two of the three remaining buildings on the future site of Elyria’s newest library branch.

Broad Street in downtown Elyria will close as part of the demolition process, city officials said. Electronic signs were posted downtown Tuesday to alert motorists of the detour.

Heavy equipment was parked Tuesday evening next to the buildings at 314 and 322 Broad St. as workers made preparations to take down the two three-story buildings there. They are being demolished to make way for Elyria Public Library System’s new Central Branch.

Three buildings at 115, 119 and 121 East Ave. already were brought down, with all that remained Tuesday in piles of bricks and metal. A surprise also met workers Tuesday, when a hidden basement was revealed during demolition, city officials said.

Elyria Assistant Safety Service Director Kevin Brubaker said workers were demolishing portions of one of the buildings at the site when they went to “bust up the floor and it punched through.”

Not knowing what might be in the underground room, he said none of the workers went down there and it was left alone until an asbestos contractor can do tests to determine if there is asbestos present, Brubaker said. Asbestos has to be abated, or cleaned up, before any demolition work can continue, he said.

Asbestos frequently was used as insulation, in shipbuilding and construction materials including ceiling and floor tiles, until at least the 1970s. Exposure to the mineral fibers in asbestos is linked to cancer and severe breathing problems.

The Elyria Fire Department also was called out, Assistant Chief Kevin Szabo said, and used a meter to check for any toxic gases or natural gas in the hidden room. Nothing like that was detected, he said.

“It was just a room and a hallway that didn’t lead anywhere,” Szabo said.

As workers finished up for the day Tuesday, moving concrete and dirt, Everett Prunner stopped by the site to have a look.

Prunner said his family used to own and work at the Elyria City Checker Cab and Yellow Checker Cab companies — formerly at 40 East Ave., according to May 1978 story in The Chronicle-Telegram.

“All those years ago,” said Prunner, a 69-year-old veteran of the Vietnam War, looking over the site and mentioning to a reporter that a song of the same name was sung by the former Beatle, George Harrison.

He pointed Tuesday to a pile of bricks he recognized as coming from the paint shop. Prunner said his stepfather Ted did all the body work on the cabs.

Prunner also recalled the former Lorain National Bank on Second Street, the former Sears, Roebuck & Co. department store that was at 328 Broad St. for a quarter-century until it moved to Midway Mall in the late 1960s — it was replaced by Pioneer Plaza — and JC Penney’s was directly across the street from Sears at 327 Broad St.

Downtown Elyria “sure has changed” over the years, he said.

The new Central Branch library will be built at an estimated cost of $8 million, according to the Elyria Public Library System.

The cost of the 12 parcels of property on which it will be built, totaling 1.25 acres at Broad Street and East Avenue, exceeded $1 million. The half-dozen previous owners of the properties included the Lorain County Printing and Publishing Co., the parent company of The Chronicle.

Contact Dave O’Brien at (440) 329-7129 or do’ Follow him at @daveobrienCT on Twitter.

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