Bruce Baumhower, UAW Local 12 president, is among those who would like to see the site of the former Jeep plant developed into a parts supplier site for Chrysler, which is just four miles away.
Although they don’t yet have a tenant, Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority board members on Thursday took the next step in the redevelopment of the former Jeep site into an industrial complex. The board approved a developer for construction of the site's first building.
If all goes as planned, the first building should be up for prospective tenants by next summer, said Matt Sapara, the port's vice president for facilities development.
The port authority board at its meeting Wednesday unanimously approved a contract with Harmon Family Development Corp. to conduct preliminary architectural and infrastructure planning on the 111-acre property known as Overland Industrial Park. Board members Bernard “Pete” Culp, Bailey Stanbery, and Sharon Speyer abstained.
Although they are talking with prospects, port officials do not have a tenant for the future building. The Jeep Parkway site sits close to I-75 and has rail access, an ideal setting for auto parts companies or other suppliers. Officials have expressed hope that the presence of physical structures would initiate a flow of prospective clients.
“We hope we can find a tenant prior to the start of construction, but if we don't, we are still committed to move forward [with the project]," port authority President Paul Toth said.
Ed Harmon and his family-owned development company from Columbus were chosen for Mr. Harmon’s “reputation, speed, and follow-through, but perhaps most importantly for his national networking success,” said Dean Monske, president of the Regional Growth Partnership.
Mr. Harmon, who attended the meeting, said his company owns about 5 million square feet of property all over the United States, and that the board was right to move forward with spec buildings.
“The reality is ... Fortune 500 type companies are not looking for something that is 25-35 years old,” he said. “We are excited about this project.”
The proposal is based on an agreement in which the authority and Harmon will share expenses and then, eventually, revenues from the project, Mr. Sapara explained. The port authority will receive additional revenue from land-lease profits, he said.
Mr. Sapara said the Columbus company expects to bring a second recommendation before the board in about six months with more detail about the project, including size and other design aspects, as well as construction costs. At that time, the board will be able to consider whether to go forward with the building’s construction.
If a construction agreement is finalized at that time, he said, construction would start within 60 days.
The port authority bought the property from a Chrysler liquidation company for $95,000 in October, 2010, three years after the automaker, which had moved its Jeep operations to the Toledo Assembly Complex on Stickney Avenue, finished razing its Jeep Parkway buildings.
The port authority last year unveiled a development plan for the 930,000 square-foot industrial complex that included a spattering of buildings along the property's eastern edge. The market will determine the number of buildings, the amount of square footage, and the amount of tenants in the building, which will be determined next year, port spokesman Holly Kemler said.
The port authority has spent more than $2.1 million to clean up the property over the last year, paid for through a Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund grant.
In related news, the board approved a $91,000 contract with Lockport Transportation of Woodville to transfer fill to the industrial park for grading elevations.
In other board news:
● The board agreed to have the Downtown Toledo Parking Authority continue to manage the city’s parking garages and metered spaces for three years starting Oct. 1. The port authority purchased parking operations from the city in 2011; the parking authority has maintained them since 1995. The total parking system operations cost is $1,279,481.
● The board approved the allocation of about $18 million in federal tax credits to bring in investments to fund the development of the Ironville Dock in East Toledo. The new market tax credit program, administered by the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, in the Department of the Treasury, will allow the board to finish site development, which includes dredging, road and dock construction, utility installation, and warehouse construction on the 186-acre site, Mr. Toth said.
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