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CTY marina14p A mix that includes commercial, retail, entertainment, and residential construction is planned for the East Toledo parcel.
A mix that includes commercial, retail, entertainment, and residential construction is planned for the East Toledo parcel.
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Published: Friday, 7/27/2012

Marina District leaders say project advancing

Marketing study, design competition cited

BY LIYAN CHEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Though very little change has appeared in the East Toledo Marina District property, leaders say much has gone on behind the scenes.

More than a year after buying the land in the Marina District, Dashing Pacific Group Ltd. has an extensive marketing study, an architectural design competition, and ongoing negotiation with potential anchor tenants.

"Dashing Pacific has been prudent with its investment. It is more important to get the right development plan than doing it fast," said Bill Rudolph, chairman of the Rudolph/Libbe Cos. Rudolph/Libbe has worked closely with Dashing Pacific on its investment in Toledo since 2010.

While remaining the master developer for the Marina District, Dashing Pacific will be likely to work with other local and international developers for different real estate product types, especially single-family residential and hotel, according to a statement from Rudolph/Libbe to The Blade.

Dashing Pacific also has been negotiating with potential anchor tenants, officials said. A corporate headquarters and several educational entities have considered the Marina District as a prospective location.

But the company declined to disclose information on these potential tenants.

Dashing Pacific closed a $2.15 million cash deal on The Docks restaurant complex on March 18, 2011. It then bought the 69-acre waterfront site at the Marina District in East Toledo in July, 2011. The $3.8 million Marina District deal almost got derailed but went back on track after Mayor Mike Bell's trip to China in May of last year.

After the deals, Dashing Pacific quickly started to conduct a marketing study and to look for the right architectural firm for the project.

In July, 2011, Dashing Pacific and Rudolph/Libbe hired MXD Development Strategists Ltd., a real estate consulting company in Canada, to conduct a marketing study of the Toledo real estate industry. The study was completed in December.

The report highlighted the district's advantages, such as an extensive waterfront, bridges to the central business district, and view of the downtown skyline.

But it also highlighted Toledo's slow population growth, indicating an older population age than the national average, with the exception of student-aged young adults.

Overall, the report recommended a mixed-use design for the district. Mixed use includes office, retail, residential, hospitality, educational, and entertainment on and around the site.

"Our goal is to help Dashing Pacific better understand the real estate market in Ohio," Mr. Rudolph said.

A design competition, with the goal to select a master planning architectural firm, also took place in late August, 2011.

Dashing Pacific and Rudolph/Libbe selected three architectural firms to design development strategies for the land.

The three firms -- Urban Design Associates of Pittsburgh, Cooper Carry of Atlanta, and Reztark Design Studio of Cincinnati -- presented different concepts and strategies. Eventually, Dashing Pacific and Rudolph/Libbe chose Urban Design Associates as the master planning architect.

When Dashing Pacific's negotiation with potential anchors advances sufficiently, the architectural firm will develop a plan that works with both the firm's plans and the potential tenants' objectives, according to a statement from Rudolph/Libbe.

"It is not wise to build speculative projects, and it is important to work with prospective tenants to develop the land," Mr. Rudolph said.

Dashing Pacific is now evaluating its financial situation to prepare for future development of the district.

"In order to develop a successful real estate strategy, three parts have to come together: physical, market, and financial." Mr. Rudolph said.

Jimmy Wu, representative of Dashing Pacific and son of its co-investor Wu Kin Hung, said he has been working to get more companies involved in the Marina District, according to the April 18 minutes of the city's Architectural Review Committee.

However, he also said there was no time line.

Mr. Wu, who now lives in Toledo and serves as a member in the Architectural Review Committee, declined a request by The Blade for an interview.

Mike Craig, a councilman from East Toledo, said, "I thought they [Dashing Pacific] would have some sort of development, so in this sense it didn't meet my expectation. . . . My understanding is that they have a hard time getting other investors involved, and that's unfortunate."

But Mayor Mike Bell spoke positively of the district's development and called it unfair to expect something to be built overnight.

"They [Dashing Pacific] have moved at an appropriate pace to make the development sustainable. … I am still extremely positive about what's going to happen. They have put their own money to develop the land. We are already ahead of the game compared with the past." Mr. Bell said.

Dean Monske, president and chief executive of Regional Growth Partnership, said, "I understand the impatience of the community, media, and elected officials. But for a project of this magnitude, if you are going to do it right, it will take some time."

Mr. Rudolph also urged the public not to have "unbridled optimism."

"The scope, pace, and timing of the project has to match with that of Toledo's development," he said.

Contact Liyan Chen at: lchen@theblade.com or 419-724-6065.



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