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Landmarks Commission Hears Concerns Over Club Azteca Demolition

The Cleveland Landmarks Commission says it will not rush a decision on the fate of the Club Azteca building in Gordon Square. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]
The Cleveland Landmarks Commission says it will not rush a decision on the fate of the Club Azteca building in Gordon Square. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

The Cleveland Landmarks Commission did not rule on the fate of the revered Club Azteca building during its meeting Thursday, a day after activists rallied at the site seeking to prevent its demolition. And commissioners made it clear that any decisions regarding the vacant Detroit Avenue property will not be rushed.

The Bond Street Group plans to build a multi-story, multi-use building on property that includes the parcel where the Club Azteca building sits in the Gordon Square Arts District.  

Before Bond Street presented its plans, Landmarks Commission Secretary Donald Petit said the body would seriously consider community concerns before finalizing any plans. The Landmarks Commission must give its approval because the building is in a historic district.

“I think we kind of underestimated how much people care about this building,” Petit said.

The Club Azteca social club donated the building to the Cuyahoga Land Bank after years of dodging foreclosure and struggling to keep up with tax payments.

The club and Bond Street came to a written agreement that the new development would honor Club Azteca’s history and its involvement in the neighborhood. Bond Street also took on debts of the building in the agreement.

Bond Street representative Justin Strizzi read a statement provided to him on behalf of Club Azteca.

“Azteca Club is not opposed to the demolition of the building at 5602 Detroit Avenue,” the statement read. “Working with Bond Street has provided the club with an opportunity to move on from the challenges of the building and to be able to focus on its mission of social justice and supporting and promoting Mexican-American arts and culture."

A few community members spoke up at the virtual meeting to express how much the Club Azteca building means to them.

“This is a testament to Mexican-American dreams. The building itself has never stopped being at use, even if there’s no people inside of it,” Bella Sin said.

Sin said that signage and the façade of building provided a sense of comfort and welcome to Mexican-American Clevelanders.

“Just because the building hasn’t been used in years doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t come forward and restore the building,” Sin said.

Sin suggested that the building could be converted into a Mexican-American history museum.

Commission member Michele Anderson said she observed the building to be in “very poor condition” on a recent site visit.

The Club Azteca building stood vacant for years. Some commission members questioned why more action wasn’t taken by community members to save the club from demolition sooner.

Some community members responded, saying there was a lack of knowledge about dealings between the parties involved and a lack of generational wealth across the community to provide a new business plan.

Bond Street made it clear that they hear the concerns and want to work together on a solution.

“We are hoping that those groups take us up on our offer to meet because we would love to include them in this conversation,” Strizzi said.

Julie Trott, the commission chair, wants to ensure that demolition concerns will be taken into account before any final decisions are made.

Trott recommended that Bond Street and those concerned about the demolition take 30 to 60 days to reach a “respectful solution.”

Gabriel Kramer is a reporter/producer and the host of “NewsDepth,” Ideastream Public Media's news show for kids.