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Published: Tuesday, 9/19/2006

Much development afoot in downtown Toledo

There are no mammoth construction cranes downtown. No huge shopping complex or big new hotel is under construction. No Fortune 500 company is buying downtown real estate for a new headquarters.

And in fact, Owens-Illinois Inc. - one of the two Fortune 500 firms based downtown for decades - recently moved its headquarters to Perrysburg.

So, it's understandable when someone says, "There's nothing going on in downtown Toledo."

But, in actuality, downtown has a lot of development, redevelopment, and real-estate activity - deals that could total $130 million to $150 million in the next couple of years if all goes according to plan.

Developer David Ball has several projects in the works, including offices on the second floor of the former Woolworth store. Developer David Ball has several projects in the works, including offices on the second floor of the former Woolworth store.
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Of course, a big chunk of that depends on politics and financing - including the proposed $80 million sports/concert arena, and the $20 million housing project at the former Toledo Edison steam plant (being developed jointly by Toledoan David Ball and Jim Jackson, the pro basketball player who is a native Toledoan).

But a lot of other real estate is undergoing change, too. For example, RVI Group Inc., of Stamford, Conn., will pay $33 million for One SeaGate at the end of this month and is trying to find new tenants to repopulate much of the 32-story building. Fifth Third Bank (Northwestern Ohio) is expected to announce soon whether it will move there.

Another landmark riverfront

structure, Fiberglas Tower, could have a new life too. The owner of the 30-story building that housed Owens Corning for decades has cut the asking price from $10.5 million to $7 million and is trying to market the site as a logical place for a combination of retail, restaurants, a hotel, and condos.

"We've had quite a few people in here and have had several offers," said Carolyn Newell, an agent with Michael Realty Co. "Hopefully, we will sell it."

Behind-the-scenes redevelopment is going on in other parts of the downtown. Mr. Ball said he and several partners have 17 renovation or expansion projects in a dozen downtown buildings, involving about 120,000 square feet and costing about $8 million.

"I don't think too many people know how well the downtown is doing," said Mr. Ball.

In the past, he and his partners have bought several downtown structures, including the 100-year-old Ohio Building and the 113-year-old Gardner Building.

The latest rehab includes about $1 million to improve the 83-year-old former Woolworth store at Adams and Superior streets for another tenant, TalentTrack, a large recruiting agency, and $1 million to refurbish the 71-year-old former Kresge store at Adams and St. Clair streets (known as the Osterman Building for decades).

Mr. Ball said several of his renovated buildings are nearing full occupancy, including the Ohio Building, thanks to a new tenant, offices of the FBI.

Other developers are at work in the near-downtown area, too. Several housing and retail projects have blossomed in the Warehouse District, including the new Tony Packo's restaurant across from Fifth Third Field.

"The Warehouse projects look good," said Peter Gozza, former president of Downtown Toledo Inc., a group that was replaced by Downtown Toledo Improvement District earlier this year. "A lot of things have happened, and now people are starting to see Toledo as a nice investment."

Mr. Gozza, who is a consultant, owner of a firm called Redevelopment Concepts, added: "I think Toledo is just an incredible opportunity. It's a big mound of clay waiting for someone to come in and mold it."



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