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Published: Thursday, 3/20/2014 - Updated: 9 months ago

Residents assess Westgate plan

Owner defends the design, role as incubator of area businesses

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Arnie’s Again Bar and Grill, left, and El Nuevo Vallarta restaurants on West Central are slated for demolition as part of a Westgate development plan that drew mixed reviews Wednesday night. Arnie’s Again Bar and Grill, left, and El Nuevo Vallarta restaurants on West Central are slated for demolition as part of a Westgate development plan that drew mixed reviews Wednesday night.
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Neighbors of the Westgate Village Shopping Center offered mixed reviews Wednesday to plans by Westgate’s owners to redevelop land on the north side of West Central Avenue.

Liz Holland, chief executive officer of Abbell Credit Corp., described the proposal to a gathering of about 40 people in 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 immediate plans are for only one structure with four retail spaces.

“Things have gotten very slow in retail since the recession,” Ms. Holland said. She said El Nuevo Vallarta has plans to relocate, but her company has not been able to come to terms with the owners of Arnie’s.

The three buildings would be staggered, south to north. The first to be constructed will be the closest to Central, according to drawings distributed at the meeting. The middle structure is envisioned as a restaurant, nearly 7,400 square feet inside and more than 1,200 square feet of outdoor seating.

A 19,000-square-foot single-story structure farthest from Central would be office and retail space.

Peggy Daly-Masternak, who lives in the neighborhood, said that she was disappointed by the company’s redevelopment of Westgate in 2007, both because of its appearance and by the lack of local businesses.

“I am concerned about the aesthetics of what you plan in the future,” Ms. Daly-Masternak said.

Ms. Holland said that 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 during an exchange with G. Opie Rollison, a lawyer and Westgate neighbor, who criticized the 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 you don’t like what you’re looking at, but it meets the code.”

Light applause greeted neighbor Jenny Cope as she spoke about 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 the structure planned for the center of the development.

That structure is not part of the first phase.

“I’m in total support of the project,” said Councilman Tom Waniewski after the meeting. His district includes Westgate, and he introduced Ms. Holland to the gathering.

“Here we have someone who does not reside in Toledo and obviously has an investment in Toledo,” Mr. Waniewski said. “They’ve continued to invest in the city and take care of their property, unlike the Southwyck mall owners, the North Towne mall owners.”

Both of those shopping centers, once prominent, were demolished in recent years.

The proposal by Abell Credit Corp. 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.

The company does not own the five-acre parcel it proposes to redevelop, but has a lease until 2059, Ms. Holland said.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.



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