Western Reserve Land Conservancy, the largest land trust in Ohio, has reached a deal with developer Robert Vitt to purchase a historic 1-acre property located on what is known as Grove Hill in Chagrin Falls. The Land Conservancy plans to preserve the iconic 1878 Bancroft House and create a public gathering space in partnership with the Village of Chagrin Falls.
However, if the Land Conservancy is unable to raise $600,000 within 45 days (by May 9), the deal falls through and Vitt would renew his effort to demolish the historic home and build five new homes on the site.
“In partnership with the Village and its residents, we can save this keystone property,” said Rich Cochran, president and CEO of Western Reserve Land Conservancy. “We are committed to the preservation of the Bancroft House and to creating a public park amenity that will be a community gathering place for generations to come. We are excited to reach an agreement with Mr. Vitt, but we recognize the daunting task ahead of us to raise the money needed to finalize the deal. We’re not out of the woods just yet.”
High atop Grove Hill, the Bancroft House is a constant reminder of the history and spirit of Chagrin Falls and its residents. Considered a grand mansion when it was built in 1878, the home has unparalleled views of downtown Chagrin all the way out to the Civil War Memorial at Evergreen Hill Cemetery.
The notable property is bordered along Main Street by a handsome WPA stone wall built during the Great Depression. Grove Hill traditions like the Pumpkin Roll bring together young and old to celebrate their shared experience, passing memories to the next generation who in turn make their own. Chagrin is a place where residents cherish the history of their community.
The people of Chagrin made it clear that they want to maintain the charm of our Village by preserving Grove Hill for future generations. We are grateful to the Land Conservancy for once again stepping up to make something special happen. We urge all of our citizens and businesses to support this effort. – Chagrin Falls Mayor Bill Tomko
Chagrin Falls Mayor Bill Tomko has been a champion of historic preservation and land conservation for decades.
“The people of Chagrin made it clear that they want to maintain the charm of our Village by preserving Grove Hill for future generations,” said Mayor Tomko. “We are grateful to the Land Conservancy for once again stepping up to make something special happen. We urge all of our citizens and businesses to support this effort.”
Vitt purchased the property in 2019, intending to demolish the historic mansion and build up to five new homes on the sight. Local community members opposed the development and approached the Land Conservancy with the idea of purchasing the property from Vitt, preserving the historic value of the home, and turning the southern half of the property into a small community park, to be owned by the Village.
Council President Erinn Grube expressed her gratitude and acknowledged the need for the community to rally behind this deal.
“As council president and as the mother of young children in Chagrin, I could not be more grateful that the Land Conservancy has made this possible,” said Grube. “Now we must come together to provide the funds for this vision to be realized.”
The Land Conservancy must raise $600,000 philanthropically from the community by May 9, 2020. If the funds are not secured, the Land Conservancy will be forced to walk away and Vitt will develop the site.
If funds are raised, the Land Conservancy will purchase the 1-acre property and split the the property into two equal parcels. The organization would transfer the half-acre with the Bancroft House to a historic preservationist, and transfer the half-acre of land on the corner of Cottage and Main to the Village.
The Land Conservancy acknowledges that Mr. Vitt and his family are cooperating on the sale and have agreed to contribute charitable funds to the cause.
“We are grateful to Mr. Vitt and his sons for making it possible for us to preserve this iconic and irreplaceable property,” said Cochran.
Save Grove Hill, a community group dedicated to saving the property, expressed their enthusiasm over the agreement.
“What a great victory for Chagrin,” said Bill Weber, one of the leaders behind Save Grove Hill. “Civic engagement works. More than 2,000 people signed the petition. All of us in Chagrin have special memories of Grove Hill and it is wonderful to know that our grandchildren and their children will be able to share ours and create their own.”