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Published: Saturday, 2/18/2006

Help for One SeaGate?

FIFTH Third Bank has expressed an interest in moving to One SeaGate, the 32-story office building on the banks of the Maumee River, as a tenant replacing Owens-Illinois Inc., which is leaving for Perrysburg in the fall.

That could be a very good move for the bank, and a boost for the downtown.

John Szuch, chairman of Fifth Third of Northwest Ohio, said the bank would consider moving to the riverfront location if the price was right. He added: "Obviously, One SeaGate is the signature building in downtown Toledo, and if an attractive enough offer to lease space was made, we would have to consider it."

That might not be impossible to arrange, because with the departure of O-I, the building will be only about half-full.

The move would not add jobs to downtown Toledo payrolls, but if an agreement could be concluded, a strong marketing effort might well result in an increase in downtown employment.

The bank had been preparing to raze adjacent property on Huron Street because of its need for additional room. That cost might be reduced or eliminated if an agreement were concluded between the bank and the owners of One SeaGate.

One SeaGate, built at a cost of $100 million, once housed more than 2,200 O-I employees. It is now valued at anywhere between $20 million and $41 million, the latter being the valuation as set by the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals.

Obviously, the value depends upon the demand for space downtown, long a soft spot in the Toledo economy.

Civic and political leaders seem to be upbeat about the prospects, which perhaps is not surprising. It is better to look upon a glass as half full rather than half empty. But it would be far better if this argument did not have to occur at all.

The community can only hope for a happy ending to the saga of O-I's departure for a suburban community.

We join those hopes and trust that prospective tenants, including Fifth Third Bank, will find One SeaGate too good a prospect to pass up.

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