Toledo mayoral candidates Jack Ford and Ray Kest shared a stage last night at a meeting of area homebuilders, where they pitched ideas to boost downtown housing.
Recognizing that many members of the audience of 75 may live outside the city and not be able to vote in the Nov. 6 election, the candidates talked mostly in broad terms at the meeting at Olander Park in Sylvania.
Both men said the downtown area needs an influx of market-rate housing that will lure homeowners with cash to spend, because such projects eventually would bring back shopping to the city's core. Both said they are intent on providing whatever the city could to attract such projects.
“I think the mayor has done the right thing in pushing housing,” Mr. Ford said of incumbent Carty Finkbeiner, but “we need to also take another step and build upscale housing in the near-downtown area.”
Mr. Ford, who spoke first, said several developers have come to him saying that if, as mayor, he can offer “assurances of security and other services that will make that living experience the way they want to be,” they will build such market-rate housing.”
Mr. Kest told the homebuilders he wants them to come back to the city from the suburbs. “You have made money basically building outside the city of Toledo,” he acknowledged. “As your next mayor, I am going to be enticing you to build housing - affordable housing - inside the city of Toledo.
“It's not rocket science. It's happened in other major cities all across this country,” Mr. Kest said. “And after I'm elected, I am going to be coming to you, the homebuilders, and saying to you: `What is it going to take for you to do projects in the city of Toledo?'”
Like Mr. Ford, Mr. Kest said he wants to build on the downtown successes harvested under the current administration.
“I think, with a new vibrant downtown, with our Docks, with the Mud Hens, with the Warehouse District, with the Marina District, we're going to have a vibrant downtown,” he said. “People are going to want to live in that area.”
The candidates outlined broader ideas for development.
“One area that seems to be a very clear defining issue is what we call sprawl, and whether or not we will have policies as mayor that will encourage that or discourage that,” said Mr. Ford, a four-term state representative who recently relinquished the post of Ohio House minority leader to run for mayor.
“I have said very clearly that I want to discourage that,” Mr. Ford said. “Every time we do something that will result in significant retail or other types of business moving outside Toledo, at the end of the day, it's a net loss. The region will only be as strong as Toledo is.”
Mr. Kest, who has served as Lucas County treasurer since 1985, said that development would be best for Toledo if it came inside city boundaries but that any development in the region would benefit the city.
Both candidates are Democrats. They are running to succeed Mr. Finkbeiner.
The two candidates disagree on the proposed shopping mall near I-475 and U.S. 24 in Maumee.
Mr. Ford opposes it because he contends it will suck retail jobs out of South Toledo - especially from the struggling Southwyck Shopping Center.
Mr. Kest said he favors it because Toledo would reap 40 per cent of the income taxes generated by the mall under a revenue-sharing agreement.
Toledo and Maumee signed the vague agreement years ago and are litigating its terms in court.
The future of the Maumee mall is in the hands of the Maumee city council, which is deeply split on the issue.