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City says 7 entities show interest in developing Erie Street Market

Comprehensive plan sought for nearly vacant downtown site

CTY-flowerday27p-3-31

Devon Barrett, pointing, with Jennie Buechele, center, and her mom, Judie Barrett, all from Ottawa Lake, Mich., attend last year's Flower Day weekend at the Erie Street Market.

The Blade
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The city-owned Erie Street Market continues to be a money drain for Toledo taxpayers, but the Collins administration said at least seven entities are interested in the building.

The building is largely vacant except for the Libbey Glass Factory Outlet store. Over the last decade several redevelopment plans for the building crumbled, and it even briefly operated as a concert hall, with alcohol sales, under former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner.

Although the building hasn’t attracted Toledo City Council’s scrutiny recently, Matt Sapara, the city’s economic development director, said rigorous marketing efforts continue to potential investors.

“We are not going to rent it out piece by piece,” Mr. Sapara said. “We want a comprehensible plan for the building.”

Mr. Sapara’s most recent report to Mayor D. Michael Collins said there are, “at last count,” seven interested parties.

“Development believes that the most viable development course for this asset is for it to be a destination retailer serving the nearby residential community,” the report said. “By April 15, a development team member has been tasked with collecting letters of intent to begin to move this concept forward.”

Melanie Campbell, Toledo’s budget commissioner, said the building cost $132,000 to operate last year, including utilities, risk-management insurance, garbage collection, and janitorial services. The market’s 2013 revenue was $116,523, representing the Libbey outlet’s monthly rent.

The deficit is expected to increase this year. Toledo’s 2014 budget, which council is expected to approve today, includes a $212,000 line item for the building.

An independent audit of the city of Toledo’s 2011 financial statements found problems that included overlooked regulations and sloppy record keeping. Among the findings was that Erie Street Market management was not retaining records showing when money was received.

In April, 2012, the city closed the market’s two event halls, leaving only the Libbey store open at the site. An antiques mall that occupied a fourth bay closed Dec. 31, 2011.

Closing the event halls, which had been used for such events as concerts, weddings, and conferences, was meant to help the city save tax dollars by cutting maintenance and utility expenses, officials said.

As with most development deals, Mr. Sapara declined to identify who is interested in the building except to reveal that they include the owners of San Marcos Restaurant and Supermarket near downtown.

Mr. Sapara has other city development projects detailed in his weekly report under code names.

The three most recent coded projects are “Project Overlord,” “Project Torch,” and “Project Twining.”

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

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