Council considers channeling $2M to Berdan developer

Money would go toward $20M plan

The developers of the Standart Lofts have bought the Berdan Building, across from Fifth Third Field, and plan to renovate it.
The developers of the Standart Lofts have bought the Berdan Building, across from Fifth Third Field, and plan to renovate it.

Light from South Erie Street streams in from the left into the Berdan Building.
Light from South Erie Street streams in from the left into the Berdan Building.

Toledo City Council today will review funneling $2 million in federal money toward a $20 million plan to transform the vacant Berdan Building in the Warehouse District into apartments.

The historic but blighted building at 1 S. Erie St. across from Fifth Third Field — a former grocery warehouse — has been eyed for development for years. In 2012, a deal fell apart after more than a year of planning by the city of Toledo and Cleveland development company Landmark RE Management.

“I am very excited about this project,” said Toledo Councilman Adam Martinez, the chairman of council’s neighborhood committee.

“We have been working with the new developers the past six to eight months,” Mr. Martinez said. “The developers have a proven reputation of getting the job done. They use local contractors and local union workers, so this a great addition to the warehouse district and brings us one step closer to bringing people back to downtown.”

A Lansing development partnership purchased the Berdan Building earlier this year and announced plans to renovate it into downtown living and retail space at a cost of up to $20 million. The Berdan LLC paid $700,000 for the property, according to records on file with the Lucas County auditor. The previous owner was listed as Parkstone Berdan LLC.

Kevin Prater, a Lansing-based developer and partner in the Berdan LLC, in April said the project could hold 115 market-rate apartments with retail space on the ground floor. Redevelopment of the deteriorating five-story structure will take at least two years, he said. Mr. Prater could not be reached for comment late Monday.

The sale was facilitated by a decision by the Lucas County Board of Commissioners in March to release liens on the property owed to the county by a previous developer dating to 2005.

Mr. Prater and Richard Karp, his partner in the Berdan LLC, redeveloped the nearby Standart Lofts, a 75-unit apartment building, with stainless-steel appliances, granite countertops, and a rooftop deck.

Mr. Martinez believes the two men can get the Berdan Building project completed.

“I fought very hard against the first project when it was the Cleveland group,” he said “The numbers did not work and there was not a lot of skin in the game, but this is the complete opposite.”

The Bell administration is asking council to approve reallocating $2 million from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2.

Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat said the money originally was earmarked for the project under the previous developer.

Since the renovation of the Berdan Building was delayed, the $2 million was loaned to the North Toledo community group, United North, for its $7 million housing project, Cranes Landing. The investors of the Cranes Landing project repaid the $2 million, making it available for the Berdan Building, Mr. Herwat said.

“We had the $2 million and when the deal fell apart [in 2012] we loaned it to United North,” he said. “A private party stepped in and took over financing so the city was repaid. ... We would like to see the Berdan happen. It is an important building in our Warehouse District.”

The Berdan Building owners have said the project will be privately financed but could also include historic-preservation tax credits.

The structure is in rough shape. As it stands today, the Berdan has holes in the roof, buckling floorboards, and evidence of small fires set inside. Many windows have been broken or missing for years, and the brickwork requires major restoration. It is a Toledo landmark and an example of early 20th-century commercial style, according to the 1974 application for it to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building was completed in 1902 and has terra-cotta molding around its main doorway and elsewhere.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171 or on Twitter @IgnazioMessina.