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Published: Wednesday, 1/2/2008

Span just 1 sign of progress in eastern communities

BY JIM SIELICKI
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Veterans' Glass City Skyway. Veterans' Glass City Skyway.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

The opening of the landmark Veterans' Glass City Skyway finally provided a reliable link across the Maumee River and was a high-profile sign of progress for Toledo's eastern communities in the year just ended.

The bridge stands out among accomplishments in eastern Lucas County, Ottawa and Wood counties that occurred in 2007, many of which will affect the entire region.

New schools were built or are being planned, the Locke Branch Library was replaced with a riverfront setting, and planning moved into high gear for the Marina District that will replace the demolished Sports Arena.

On the jobs front, Fed Ex Ground decided on Rossford for its regional hub, BP PLC said it will spend $2.5 billion on its Oregon refinery, and the outlines of the $50 million Bass Pro outdoor store are rising along I-75.

East Toledoans lost in a tug-of-war over the site of a replacement arena. The aging Sports Arena at 1 Main Street was torn down as part of an ambitious riverfront project planned for the Maumee River.

Demolition of the 60-year-old barn at the foot of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Bridge created a dark point for some East Toledoans after the arena debate was steered away from East Toledo to downtown.

A grass-roots group, citing a 2001 vote for an exemption on the use of tax funds, condemned the downtown move as a double-cross.

The $320 million Marina District could be considered a consolation prize.

The district is getting a $10 million public road and park investment, to be followed by a $75 million private investment promised by real estate developer Larry Dillin, to pay for the first phase of residential, retail, and commercial construction.

The proposed 125-acre district is bounded by Front and Main streets and I-280. The sewer line is in, a water line is going in next, and the first road is staked out.

The city has built a marina, and the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority completed a $3.1 million marine passenger terminal for Great Lakes passenger ferries and cruise ships at the downriver end of the site.

River East Economic Revitalization Corp., a community development organization, is running strong again with a new executive director. Brad Peebles, a former Sylvania Township administrator, started as River East's executive director in mid-July.

Mr. Peebles, 49, filled a position that has not had a full-time occupant since early 2006, when former longtime director Donald Monroe became part of the city's economic development office.

In May, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority's board of directors agreed to take responsibility from the city for the SS Willis B. Boyer museum ship.

Board members, citing the port's role in Great Lakes shipping, hailed the move, saying it saves the floating freighter from the scrap yard.

The museum ship would complement the new passenger terminal in the Marina District and draw visitors once Great Lakes cruise ships start coming here.

Farther upriver, The Toledo-Lucas County Public Library opened the $1.9 million Locke library branch, which faces the Maumee River.

Locke represents the last project library officials will undertake with a 10-year, $38.6 million capital improvement fund.

Locke's improvements focused on expanding collections, additional parking, accommodating the latest technology, protecting the collections, and ensuring space for children, teenagers, and studying.

The new calendar year will bring new facilities at Clay High School by summer.

Coy Elementary is the only school being replaced under the Oregon City School District's $45 million school building project. Other buildings are to be renovated or given additions.

A new Penta Career Center in Perrysburg Township is expected to open in the fall, a year earlier than planned. The $90 million, 522,000-square-foot vocational school serves students throughout the region.

Eastwood Local School District will decide this month on replacing or renovating its facilities with assistance from a state fund that would pay 47 percent of the cost.

Genoa Local Schools' rebuilding program, which includes a new middle school, could expand into another project should voters approve a bond issue in March.

The school board will have a 4.9-mill, 20-year bond issue for a $37 million high school and elementary school, and a 0.5 mill issue for maintenance on the March 4 ballot.

Not all the improvements at area districts involved academic facilities.

Woodmore Local School District completed a $210,000 all-weather track that will allow high school track teams to host meets for the first time in five years.

A nonprofit group of parents, school officials, and other residents called Communities Achieving Goals for Extracurricular wants to upgrade the district's athletic facilities.

Contact Jim Sielicki at

jsielicki@theblade.com

or 419-724-6078.



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