Several local officials have embraced ProMedica’s plan to make nearly a $40 million investment in downtown Toledo by acquiring, renovating, and occupying Toledo Edison’s former Water Street Station Steam Plant, including many who believe the city could help the health-care provider secure state tax dollars so that the project can include an underground parking garage for 700 employees ProMedica wants to move into the building.
Although operating on a tight time frame, ProMedica sees the parking garage as a key piece toward moving the project forward and consolidating its operations in a historic building long coveted for its redevelopment potential.
The 119-year-old Steam Plant has been vacant for nearly 30 years.
Jeffrey Kuhn, ProMedica’s chief legal officer and chief construction & property management officer, earlier this week said creating nearby parking for 700 employees has been a concern.
ProMedica, which operates a dozen Toledo-area hospitals, said in its announcement to The Blade that it plans to make the former power plant along the Maumee River its new corporate headquarters while also occupying part of the adjacent KeyBank building.
Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins said Wednesday he “heard nothing but positive comments about this.”
Shortly after becoming mayor last month, Mr. Collins suspended former Mayor Mike Bell’s plan, a multimillion-dollar renovation and expansion of Promenade Park, to accommodate ProMedica’s proposal for underground parking.
“I am going to have to find out exactly what I can do about the state budget and I have already given [Economic Development] Director Matt Sapara the responsibility of working through with the Toledo Chamber of Commerce since they were defined to be our agent for that,” Mayor Collins said.
The mayor said he would contact Gov. John Kasich’s office today regarding Ohio’s two-year capital budget.
The chamber’s “white paper,” compiled by a local committee, asks the state to pick up $3 million of what is now a $21 million price tag to revitalize the Warehouse District around Toledo’s minor-league baseball park.
It asks for another $3 million toward what was expected to be Promenade Park’s $9 million third and final phase of that Bell administration-created project.
Dave Pagnard, spokesman for the Office of Budget and Management, said the ProMedica project still could get state support.
“The planning process for the new state capital budget is well under way, and key regional development groups and other local leaders have already responded to our outreach by submitting projects of community interest,” Mr. Pagnard said.
“But while time is short, there is still an opportunity for additional projects to be considered before Governor Kasich presents his capital spending proposal to the General Assembly later this month.”
State Rep. Mike Sheehy (D., Oregon), who was on the chamber’s white paper committee, said he would support getting money for a parking garage, but warned that it would not be easy.
“The governor is going to spend about $15 million for the greater Toledo area — the suburbs, the counties to the east, and the counties to the west,” Mr. Sheehy said. “The problem with Promenade Park was that the city was not putting up any money for it and that was hurting because almost every other project had some [local] dollars up and then the state would match that.”
Rep. Michael Ashford (D., Toledo), whose district includes downtown, said ProMedica’s move would “re-energize” the area and buck the decades-old trend of major companies leaving for the suburbs. He also said he would support taxpayer money for a parking garage.
Toledo Councilman Tom Waniewski said ProMedica Chief Executive Randy Oostra’s vision for a modern campus-like setting downtown is a “tremendous” move for the city and the company.
“I need to see what public dollars will be involved, if any,” Mr. Waniewski said. “I weigh the public dollar versus the value.”
ProMedica would seek historic tax credits for the Steam Plant renovation, Mr. Oostra said.
Councilman Rob Ludeman, chairman of council’s economic development committee, wants to discuss ProMedica’s plans during a 2 p.m. public meeting today.
“I think they have things to work through with the parking garage issue but it will be underground and they will enhance Promenade Park even more,” he said. “From the housing standpoint, it should be an additional boost to downtown living.”
Moving 700 ProMedica workers downtown would spur other development, Mr. Ludeman said.
Bill Thomas, head of the Downtown Toledo Improvement District, a special assessment district created by downtown property owners to provide benefits within a defined 38-block area, acknowledged there might be concern over tearing up a public park that taxpayers recently paid to spruce up.
“Things change. It was a great plan and it’s still a great plan,” Mr. Thomas said. “This is a great thing — with 700 people downtown and the potential to grow from there and also to be able to get the Steam Plant renovated.”
Councilman Jack Ford, a former Toledo mayor who previously worked for ProMedica as corporate director of affirmative action, said it is wise for the company to consolidate its administrative employees in one location — which is a key part of the firm’s desire for a new headquarters.
“I imagine the city will be asked to do some things with respect to streets and so forth, but they, frankly, next to the university, are the biggest institutional economic center in northwest Ohio,” Mr. Ford said.
“They have huge amounts of money coming into their profit centers so we should not be leaned on to make this happen.”
Mr. Ford said it would be reasonable to make street improvements and assumed the company would expect the park improvements to be completed.
Steve Staelin, chairman of the ProMedica board of trustees, said the company looked at a “wide range” of locations to create a new corporate headquarters.
“This is really a commitment to Toledo,” he said.
Sources told The Blade that the company also considered the vacant Fiberglas Tower.
Mr. Staelin said Promenade Park provides ample space for an underground parking structure and public space.
Jim Murray, vice-chairman of the firm’s board of trustees, said the consolidation would eventually be more economically efficient, along with increasing personal interactions.
Funding for the Steam Plant and the renovation will come from multiple sources, including the sale of existing ProMedica-owned properties such as its current headquarters on Richards Road, ProMedica said.
ProMedica plans to preserve the architectural elements of the Steam Plant and possibly add retail businesses.
The YMCA and JCC of Greater Toledo also could partner with ProMedica to build a public downtown fitness center as part of the campus on the ground level of the KeyBank building, Mr. Oostra said.
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