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Published: Wednesday, 8/10/2005

Mayoral candidates react coolly to Costco's Westgate plans

Toledo's four main mayoral hopefuls all expressed some level of reservation yesterday about placing a Costco at the Westgate Village Shopping Center.

Three candidates vying in the Sept. 13 primary election criticized the proposal.

"That would be a shame for that area," Councilman Rob Ludeman said at the end of a news conference. The Republican added later: "Westgate has a flavor all its own."

Democrat Keith Wilkowski, a former Lucas County commissioner, said the center "can do better" than a Costco.

He said he'd like to implement the five-year-old "Walk Westgate" plan, which sought to make the area more appealing to pedestrians.

"A tremendous amount of planning has gone into developing it, not in a big-box kind of way," Mr. Wilkowski said.

Former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, a Democrat seeking the office again, has made Westgate redevelopment the fifth point of his 34-point campaign agenda. A campaign spokesman, Bob Reinbolt, said yesterday that Mr. Finkbeiner opposes large-box retail in general and was leery of Costco because of one of its store's effects on a neighborhood in Dayton.

"If this development is similar ... we'd have serious concerns about it," Mr. Reinbolt said.

The campaign manager for Mayor Jack Ford said the mayor told Westgate's owner earlier this year that he was "concerned with the integrity of the neighborhood" around the shopping center in case of redevelopment. ''He continues to hold those concerns at a very high priority," said Megan Vahey, "and was reassured by the owner that they would take those concerns into serious consideration."



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