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State begins discussions on distribution of capital funds

Legislation includes money for Toledo-area projects like 'Hensville'


An architect’s rendering supplied by the Toledo Mud Hens organization shows the proposed Hensville development at Washington and South St. Clair streets.


COLUMBUS — A proposed $2.4 billion, borrowing-fueled blueprint for bricks-and-mortar projects across the state holds $1.5 million toward the $21 million revitalization of Toledo’s Warehouse District into “Hensville" with Fifth Third Field and Mud Hens baseball at its heart.

But a plan to help ProMedica incorporate the 119-year-old Steam Plant on the Toledo riverfront into its planned new corporate headquarters did not make the cut.

“It does not mean that ProMedica won’t have a chance in 2016,” Rep. Michael Ashford (D., Toledo) said. “It is a great project. When they decided to announce ProMedica, projects had already been prioritized.”

The pre-ProMedica “white paper” wish list of projects put together by a committee of the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce had instead included a request for $3 million toward the $9 million third phase of former Mayor Mike Bell’s expansion and other improvements to Promenade Park near the steam plant.

But current Mayor D. Michael Collins has since put that plan on hold, knowing that accommodating ProMedica’s hopes to build an underground parking garage for roughly 700 employees it expects to base at the Steam Plant and the adjacent KeyBank building would involve temporarily tearing up the park.

It’s part of an overall $40 million investment expected from the operator of a dozen Toledo-area hospitals.

The Promenade Park funding was also not included in the latest budget.

The plan also holds $10 million toward an effort to find alternative, more environmentally friendly uses of dredging material other than dumping it into Lake Erie and $750,000 toward $48 million in renovations at the Toledo Zoo Aquarium for its leafy sea dragon exhibit and research.

Also included is $2.5 million for Bowling Green State University as part of plans to build a new forensics lab at the university. Related to that is $16 million in planned improvements to Moseley Hall Science Laboratories.

The House Finance and Appropriations Committee was set to begin hearings today on the newly introduced bill for construction and equipment projects at universities, government buildings, parks, museums, historic sites, and other venues across the state.

Like any bill it is subject to change up to the point that Gov. John Kasich signs it into law.

It marks the first infusion of state capital budget money into local community projects since 2008. There was no capital budget at all for 2011 and 2012 because of the state’s tight borrowing constraints at the time.

Lawmakers hope to finalize the bill in time to take advantage of this year’s construction season.

Mr. Kasich is counting on the capital budget, along with recent borrowing against the Ohio Turnpike for non-turnpike highway construction, and a proposed renewal of a public works bond issue on the May ballot to help fuel an infrastructure rebuilding boom to create jobs.

Projects with an emphasis on workforce development were also given priority, which likely helped the proposed $4.7 million workforce development center collaboration of the University of Toledo and Northwest and Terra state community colleges. It’s slated to receive $1 million from the state, $1.7 million less than it asked for.

The Hensville plan includes conversion of St. Clair into a pedestrian mall, conversion of a parking lot across the street from the convention center and the ballpark into a concert and festival area, and redevelopment of three long-vacant buildings into new dining, shopping, and residential opportunities.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Jim Zehringer praised the inclusion of $10 million as part of the state’s efforts to reduce open lake dumping and further implement strategies to deal with the Lake Erie’s growing toxic algae problem.

“…we will continue practices to address nutrient issues in the Lake Erie watershed,” he said. “We recognize more needs to be done and with the help of the governor’s capital bill, we can work toward our shared goal of improving water quality in the western Lake Erie basin.”

Among numerous other projects on the list are:

— $3.5 million for the University of Toledo’s anatomy specimen storage facility.

— $3 million in UT campus infrastructure improvements.

— $3 million for UT academic technology and renovation projects.

— $2 million for the NorthwestOhio Plastics TrainingCenter at UT.

— $400,000 toward a $2.5 million extension of the Sylvania River Trail along Ten Mile Creek.

— $250,000 for ProMedica Transformative Low-Income Medical Senior Housing.

— $150,000 for the Toledo Repertoire Theater.

— $136,000 for the Valentine Theater Initiative.

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