Neighbors of the Westgate Village Shopping Center offered mixed reviews today to plans by Westgate's owners to redevelop land on the north side of Central Avenue.
Liz Holland, chief executive officer of Abbell Credit Corp., described the proposal to a gathering that drew about 40 people to the Driscoll Alumni Center at the University of Toledo.
That proposal calls for demolishing the buildings that house Arnie's Again Bar and Grill and El Nuevo Vallarta restaurant for a development that ultimately would include three buildings -- although Ms. Holland said that immediate plans are only for one structure with four retail spaces.
"Things have gotten very slow in retail since the recession," Ms. Holland said. She said that El Nuevo Vallarta has plans to relocate, but that her company has not been able to come to terms with the owners of Arnie's.
Peggy Daly-Masternak who lives in the neighborhood said she was disappointed by the company's redevelopment of Westgate in 2007 -- in appearance and in a lack of local businesses.
"I am concerned about the aesthetics of what you plan in the future," Ms. Daly-Masternak said.
Ms. Holland said the owners "have always incubated businesses at Westgate," since its founding in the 1950s by her father and uncle. She cited a shop with a national brand whose franchisees are local.
She also defended the design and layout as complying with codes, as she did in an exchange with G. Opie Rollison, a lawyer and Westgate neighbor, who criticized the Westgate redevelopment and the plans for the north side of Central as not meeting codes.
"We ask you to do something other than a big box structure," Mr. Rollison said.
Tom Gibbons, principal planner of the city plan commission, who was in the audience, replied: "I understand what you don't like what you're looking at, but it meets the code."
Light applause greeted neighbor Jenny Cope as she spoke of her pride in the Westgate redevelopment, which she said attracts friends from all sides of town.
"I look forward to seeing what you're going to do," Ms. Cope said.
Bill Delaney, a retired tavern owner, said later to Ms. Holland: "Thank you for your concern for businesses."
Others in the audience offered suggestions for restaurant chains that would be suitable for a 7,300-square-foot structure at the center of the development that is to be used as a restaurant. That structure is not part of the first phase.
Councilman Tom Waniewski introduced Ms. Holland.
The proposal is to be reviewed by the city plan commission April 10. Businesses in the redeveloped parcel would be open by Christmas if everything falls into place, Ms. Holland said.