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Published: Wednesday, 2/24/2010

Developer Larry Dillin vows to finish projects

Developer Larry Dillin says he hopes to reach an agreement with investors soon after they complete work on another deal. Developer Larry Dillin says he hopes to reach an agreement with investors soon after they complete work on another deal.

Developer Larry Dillin said Tuesday that he is still committed to completing the Toledo Marina District project, and the redevelopment of the former Southwyck Shopping Center.

But the man who built Levis Commons in Perrysburg said for work on the projects to proceed, he needs to secure a deal with private equity backers so he can buy property in the Marina District, and he needs “signs” that the economy is turning around.

“There needs to be a gut instinct on this,” he said in an interview with The Blade's editorial board.

For nearly a year Mr. Dillin has negotiated with private investors on the West Coast in an effort to have them bankroll several of his development projects that total about $3.5 billion.

He expected to reach a deal last fall, but he said the investors have been involved in a large acquisition that taxed their time and resources. That deal could be completed soon and Mr. Dillin said he hopes to reach an agreement with the group shortly afterward.

Borrowing from banks has become nearly impossible, he said.

“The way we’ve done business in the last 20 years is now dead to us,” he said.

Mr. Dillin said once the private equity funding is secure, he can move forward on both the Marina District and Southwyck.

The Marina District, proposed in 2000, is a plan to convert 125 acres on the waterfront north of Main Street in East Toledo into a $320 million mix of apartments, restaurants, and nightclubs along the river. Mr. Dillin plans, once he has the money, to buy the land to build a parklike area where events can be held, add rental housing, and then fill in with retail.

But there’s probably more interest from retailers going into a redeveloped South wyck site, he said. That mall was demolished last year. “For me, [demolition] was a win,” Mr. Dillin said.

The developer said with commercial lending mostly dried up, retailers are wary of new malls and shopping centers without surrounding neighborhoods.

As a result, in the last year, many are anxious to know when he’ll develop Southwyck, which has plenty of surrounding rooftops.

But Southwyck, Mr. Dillin said, will take “three to five years before the market turns around for development.”

Contact Jon Chavez at:jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.

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