A lack of money has stalled the Underground Railroad Center project.
Phase 2B, costing up to $333,765, includes construction of a 2,081-square-foot building on the north side of the site at 263 South Main St. The building is to contain bathrooms, bike racks, a 1,200-square-foot picnic pavilion, and a storage room with lanterns, a fountain, and sidewalk outside.
Construction was scheduled to be completed in June.
However, the Ohio Department of Transportation said it won’t have money for the project until at least 2019, acting city manager Sal Talarico told city council members Monday.
Talarico said he has asked the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency for help in finding the money sooner.
In addition to transportation planning, the agency helps communities secure federal taxpayer grant money. Besides serving as a tourist attraction commemorating Oberlin’s abolitionist past, the center is located along bicycle and hiking trails, which could make it eligible for transportation-related money.
Talarico told council if the money can’t be obtained until 2019, the center’s implementation team would consider scaling back parts of the project such as the lantern and fountain. Talarico said after the council meeting that Oberlin officials will continue to lobby ODOT to free up the money before 2019.
“If there are excess dollars because of their other projects that come in under budget, they may restore it to 2017,” he said.
If Phase 2B can be done on schedule, organizers will still need to raise between $2 million and $3 million for the third and final phase of the project. It involves interactive programming inside the center.
The project dates back to 1999. Phase 2 of the project cost $242,000 with state taxpayers paying $200,000.
Phase 1 of the project was for exterior restoration of the Gasholder Building — a former coal gas storage facility — and cost $445,000. Eighty percent was paid with federal money and the remainder locally. Phase 1 was completed in 2012.
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.
Evan Goodenow | News-Tribune Work on installation of the Underground Railroad Center 20-space parking lot in July. Construction of a 2,081-square-foot building, scheduled to be completed in June, has been delayed due to a lack of money.
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