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Neighbors concerned as thieves, vandals target former abortion clinic

Posted at 5:03 PM, Dec 28, 2017

A former abortion clinic on Cleveland’s east side continues to pose problems for people living and working nearby.

Since the medical office building closed in late 2013, neighbors said it has been home to vandals and copper thieves, which have disrupted phone and water service to the adjacent daycare.

The windows of the three-story office building on Shaker Boulevard resembles a boxer’s smile after one too many title fights. Many of the glass block panels have been broken out, leaving jagged edges behind. Some of the windows are missing altogether, giving passersby a glimpse into the building and a partially collapsed ceiling. 

The former Shaker Medical Center looks beat down and Sherrita Perry believes it's bringing down the neighborhood.

“It's becoming an eyesore,” Perry said.

Perry helps run Shaker Boulevard Educational Center. Established 25 years ago, her family’s business is located adjacent to the former medical center. Even though the two properties are on separate deeds, the buildings are connected through a common hallway.

The buildings are also connected through a common plumbing and electrical system.

“Therefore, if they tamper with the water supply, it adversely affects ours as well. It costs a lot of money,” Perry said.

The former medical center was at one time an abortion clinic run by Dr. Martin Ruddock. Following the state’s implementation of additional restrictions placed on abortion clinics, the former Cleveland Center for Women’s Health closed in September 2013. Seven years prior, Dr. Ruddock’s clinic was cited by the Ohio Department of Health for failing to meet basic health standards, including checking a patient’s vitals before performing a late-term abortion, according to state records. 

According to property records, the building is owned by Whitehawk Properties Incorporated. Business filings with the state show the company was registered by Dr. Ruddock. Whitehawk stopped paying property taxes on its Shaker Boulevard property many years ago.

Over the years, code enforcement has placed liens on the property after the city paid to have the grass cut and the building boarded up. The water department has also placed a lien on the property for unpaid bills, according to property records.

All told, Whitehawk owes nearly $30,000 in delinquent taxes, fines and liens. Neither Dr. Ruddock nor anyone else associated with Whitehawk has been inside or around the property in years, Perry said.

"They are absolutely nowhere to be found,” Perry said. 

Dr. Ruddock could not be reached for comment; the phone line had been disconnected. At times, working next to the former clinic has been a nightmare, Perry said.

“We couldn't figure out where the water was coming from or what was happening and why our bill was so high,” Perry said. “It was because [thieves] had gotten the copper pipes. The water was literally gushing up. We are concerned, especially during the summer months when it's warmer, teenagers are always trying to get in and out to see if there is any copper or anything. There is that underlying concern.”

Perry said contractors have sealed off the common hallway between the two buildings. Additional security measures were also implemented in order to head off any concerns that vandals might make it inside the daycare.

The building just needs to be demolished, Perry said.

"We're more conscious of our safety and the children, more than anything."

According to property records, a city re-inspection of the site could occur in 2018 for a possible raze order. Perry will be ecstatic if that day comes.

This is part of News 5's 'Cleveland Abandoned' – a series like you’ve never seen on the state of vacant properties in Cleveland and how it impacts our city. This in-depth look will expose the scope and history of the problem. You will also hear from people and organizations working tirelessly to make their neighborhoods better. Lastly, “Cleveland Abandoned” will detail how we can work together to combat challenges, uncover solutions and improve our community.