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Toledo Museum of Art expands its campus

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The Toledo Museum of Art purchased five parcels of land west of its campus.

The Blade/Katie Rausch
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The Toledo Museum of Art has expanded its campus with the purchase of five parcels of land west that have been maintained as community gardens for more than seven years.

Three of the parcels — 801, 803 and 827 W. Glenwood Ave. — were sold earlier this month by Glenwood Gardens LLC for $150,000, according to Lucas County Auditor’s Office real estate records. The other two — at 809 and 815 W. Glenwood — were sold to the museum by Glenwood Lutheran Church, 2545 Monroe St., whose sanctuary is on 1.2 acres adjoining the museum’s main building and the newly purchased land. The church sold its two parcels for $100,000.

The museum has no plans to do anything with the lots, said Adam Levine, the museum’s associate director.

“This is not strategic per say, it was opportunistic. We were approached and we took the opportunity to work collaboratively with partners,” Mr. Levine said. “Most institutions that have campuses think of their property in terms of land banks. This aligns with our northwestern land bank.

“We don't actually have a use, but they don't make land anymore, so given the opportunity to control that, it was the right decision,” he added.

Jean Emery, president of Glenwood Church Council, confirmed that church officials were approached by Norm Rapino, the owner of the three Glenwood Gardens properties, who told them he was interested in selling to the museum, and wondered whether the church would be as well.

Emery said all five properties were being maintained as community gardens through the nonprofit program Toledo GROWs, but with the massive growth of community gardens, interest had waned.

Mr. Rapino was unable to be reached for comment. Real estate records indicate Eloise Rapino bought the parcels in 2004, then transferred them to the LLC in 2009.

Church officials, who in 2014 invited the museum to make an offer on its property amid financial and congregational problems, say those discussions are dead in the water. The historic church, founded in 1901, will stay where it is, Ms. Emery said.

“I think the congregation is larger now than it was when those negotiations were happening, and relationships with the museum are better,” she said. “Leadership changed, our outlook for the future changed, the awareness of the downtown redevelopment changed, there has been more involvement in the Old West End, that’s changed. This is more about looking forward than behind.”

Ms. Emery said the church has a growing congregation of about 300 parishioners.

Mr. Levine confirmed that discussions with the church over any potential sale of its main property have ended.

“The church has been around since 1901, they are great lovers and supporters of the arts, and you can’t have a better neighbor than a church,” he said.

The parcels sit just west of the church, in front of the museum’s Rita B. Kern Garden and entrance to the museum parking lot, and stretching to I-75. A sixth parcel, 821 W. Woodruff, that is sandwiched between 815 and 827 W. Woodruff, has a residence on the property and was not purchased by the museum. Real estate records indicate that parcel is owned by Madeline Debbie Fulgham.

Mr. Levine said there have been no conversations with the property owner about acquiring the sixth lot.

The museum, founded in 1901, has grown over the years from a single main facility to a campus with 11 buildings, including the Center for Visual Arts and the Glass Pavilion, sculptural gardens, green space, and parking. The museum also this year purchased the Museum Place Apartments, five early 20th-century built buildings on Monroe Street and Collingwood Boulevard.

The recent Woodruff Avenue purchase will not be detailed in the museum’s master plan, a broader vision for the museum’s campus that is expected to be released next month, said Mr. Levine, who also declined to discuss the master plan in any detail.

“We are being thoughtful here, but it is premature for me to say we have had any real conversations about the disposition of that land,” he said.

Contact Roberta Gedert at rgedert@theblade.com, 419-724-6075, or on Twitter @RoGedert.

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