I m a believer now, said John Jezak, Maumee city administrator.
It took nine years, but major construction finally has begun on the first building at General Growth Properties long-awaited Shops at Fallen Timbers project off U.S. 24 near the I-475/U.S. 23 interchange.
The steel frame of a 9,528-square-foot structure is being erected for four small stores that will connect to a J.C. Penney store.
Penney is one of four major retailers that filed detailed building plans last month for the southwest Lucas County project that originally was to be an enclosed mall but now is an open-air lifestyle center.
The other big stores on the plans are: Dillard s, P.F. Chang s China Bistro restaurant, and a large bookstore. On its Web site, General Growth, based in Chicago, lists the bookstore as a Barnes and Noble.
Maumee inspection officials, who visit the 110-acre site twice a day, said foundations have been laid for four buildings and concrete will be hard enough in two weeks for more steel skeletons to be erected. Foundations for two other buildings likely will be poured next week.
It s happening in front of my eyes, said Mr. Jezak, who in past years has voiced quiet skepticism on whether the project would proceed. If I can look at it, see it, smell it, touch it, then it s real.
Jim Graham, a spokesman for General Growth, which is the nation s No. 2 mall developer, said work is going at full speed for the 1 million-square-foot center that will have 80 shops.
But the project won t be ready by next spring, which a company spokesman declared last year. He didn t know the planned opening date but said it would be late next year.
He also was unaware of how many other stores have signed leases for the center.
A groundbreaking ceremony has been tentatively set for Sept. 26, but Mr. Graham said the date is not certain.
Fallen Timbers, on Russell Road just off of U.S. 24 about a mile west of U.S. 23/I-475, has gone through a decade s worth of changes and revisions.
Once owned by the city of Toledo for possible use as an automotive assembly plant site, the land was sold to Maumee. In 1995 Isaac Group Holdings Inc. acquired an option to buy 430 acres with the intent of building a regional mall.
Isaac sold the land to General Growth in 1998, and the new owner announced plans for a two-story 1.2 million-square-foot enclosed mall to be opened in 2000.
That project stalled, in part due to neighborhood opposition and in part due to a poor economy that had few retailers looking for new sites. In 2003, the plan shifted to a lifestyle center with outdoor shops resembling a downtown streetscape.
Last year, the project was revised again to 110 acres of stores, boutiques, and restaurants encircling a half-acre man-made lake.
The anchor stores have changed several times too, but now the company plans for them to be Dillard s, Penney, and a 16-screen theater. Sears, once to be part of the project, apparently is not involved.
In site plans filed last month, Dillard s proposed a two-story 204,000-square-foot store, Penney a one-story 97,500-square-foot store, P.F. Chang a 7,500-square-foot restaurant, and Barnes and Noble a 27,000-square-foot store.
Plans require the construction of adjoining retail buildings before either the Dillard s or Penney can be built, Maumee officials said.
In all, there will be nine buildings containing numerous small stores, located on a central boulevard extending the length of the project and anchored at one end by the theater.
Plans also call for a 107-room hotel, but officials said that addition is tentative. Other retail shops on the eastern edge of the site could be added later, plans show.
Contact Jon Chavez at: email@example.com or 419-724-6128.