Talk of redeveloping the site of the former Southwyck Shopping Center began years before the mall closed six years ago. Revitalization of the property is long overdue, and city officials must put together a workable deal.
Toledo has a 120-day agreement to buy the South Toledo site for $3 million. Mayor D. Michael Collins said he is confident the city can market the property to an end user in that time. If the 58-acre site is to become usable again, the time is now.
Southwyck closed in 2008 after operating for 36 years. The structure was demolished the next year, and the site has been vacant since. Weeds and grass have grown through cracks in the concrete — another eyesore Toledo does not need.
But the Collins administration has smartly taken control of the site, thus overcoming the competing interests of its two owners. The purchase agreement allows city officials to offer a clear path to ownership, with negotiated price and instant availability.
“I felt the city had no other choice but to get involved and streamline this process,” Matt Sapara, the city’s economic and business development director, told The Blade’s editorial page. “The owners of that asset are very difficult to work with. They have different sets of business goals. They don’t communicate well together. And potential buyers want the path of least resistance.”
Mr. Sapara said two parties, which he wouldn’t identify, are interested in redeveloping the site. He envisions a potential corporate headquarters, with a spin-off retail component.
In 2012, former Mayor Mike Bell’s administration and a team of developers announced plans to build a recreation complex on the Southwyck site, including a water park, a soccer field, an indoor ice rink, volleyball courts, retail space, and a hotel. The deal quickly collapsed.
“Previous deals have fallen apart, but the city now controls it, and we’re going to let the market dictate what should be there,” Mr. Sapara said.
The Southwyck purchase agreement appears to protect the city financially; Mayor Collins said no money is at risk if a deal cannot be reached. City officials have empowered themselves credibly to broker a much-needed shot at saving the Southwyck site.