CHAGRIN FALLS – The Save Grove Hill fundraising effort earlier this week was on the verge of realizing its $600,000 goal toward purchasing the historical Bancroft House and 1-acre lot, according to officials from the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, the nonprofit backer of the drive that began as a neighborhood protest.

Earlier this week a total of $445,835 had been pledged toward the goal as the May 9 deadline for raising money nears, according to conservancy President and CEO Rich Cochran.

Discounting a matching grant of $200,000, he noted it all comes down to attracting 250 donors, each pledging $600 and paying $50 a month if they wish.

Mr. Cochran and the land conservancy announced negotiations had concluded and terms of the sale of the property had been reached with owner and developer Robert Vitt who planned to build four to five townhomes on the land along the area known as Grove Hill.

“We are confident that the community will rise up to meet this challenge. There is a clear choice to be made here,” Mr. Cochran said. “On the one hand, we can preserve the Bancroft home and create a new public park on Cottage and Main streets or on the other hand, we can have a four or five home subdivision there. We think the people of this community will choose to preserve this iconic home and create the new park.”

The possibility of a recession might be viewed as a drawback to giving, Mr. Cochran said.

“This is obviously a perilous time for us as a nonprofit and our operating revenues have been and will continue to be negatively impacted by the recession caused by COVID-19,” he said adding that because of “unnerving and uncertain times” his organization will be unable to fill the gap in funding as it once was able.

“We really need the residents to come together and help us by either pledging or giving now,” he said. Prospective donors will get their money back if the Bancroft purchase does not go forward, he added.

For the next 10 days the drive for donors will reach out to “residents from whom we have yet to hear,” he said. “We also hope to secure one final challenge grant for the final push. We remain highly confident that with the help of many donors we will get there.”

One of the latest donations came from the Chagrin Falls Historical Society’s 15-hour, $15,000 challenge which netted a total of $23,000 for the cause, according to Ruth Zeager, the historical society’s executive director.

A $200,000 challenge pledge came from a donor identified as “someone who loves Chagrin Falls.” The anonymous party pledged 50 cents on every dollar raised to $200,000.

The conservancy followed the project and the protest before Mr. Cochran, at a crowded council meeting in late January, offered assistance.

Focus of the drive include the lot with its lofty stand on evergreen trees and the long-vacant Bancroft Home Mr. Vitt purchased last summer. Fate of the stately 1878 Victorian at the corner of Summit Street and Grove Hill had hung in the balance between relocation elsewhere on the property and total demolition.

Either option runs counter to the village’s historic preservation regulations which could be challenged in court.

Summit Street neighbors, some of whom own equally historic homes, testified during a string of public meetings, their property values would suffer if development of the hill be permitted.

“Save Grove Hill” signs, 200 in all, were ordered to raise awareness to the issue and sprung up on village lawns overnight over a single weekend. The cause has caught the imagination of the entire village which rallied around the WRLC-dubbed “keystone property” and the cause to save it.

A veteran reporter and columnist, Barbara Christian has been covering Chagrin Falls since 1967 and is currently responsible for Chagrin Falls village events, government and school board news along with her weekly column "Window on Main Street."

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