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Published: Thursday, 11/2/2000

Developers, port officials discuss cold storage plan


Developers of a proposed mega-warehouse facility at Toledo Express Airport yesterday apparently moved closer to offering a timetable on building it - amid growing frustration over delays in the 21/2-year-old project.

They met behind closed doors with officials from the airport's parent agency - the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. But neither they nor port administrators were willing to elaborate on any agreements reached.

“Until we verify in writing the conclusions reached, the facts agreed upon, and the anticipated target dates for dissemination to the port authority's board of directors, we are not in a position to discuss publicly those items,” they said in a joint statement issued after the meeting.

The statement did not address whether developers agreed to a key request of port officials: $10,000 in up-front money. Brian Schwartz, spokesman for the port authority, declined to elaborate on the statement.

The $20 million project, which would create 500 jobs, centers on the importation of fruit, flowers, and fish from South America and Africa to a partly-refrigerated set of warehouses at Toledo Express. It would be a first-of-its-kind development outside the coastal United States, which developers and port authority administrators agree has made it harder to plan.

But port board members, increasingly frustrated over delays, want the developers to agree to a contract with a firm timetable for construction.

Lead developer David Hall of suburban Cleveland and local partner Scott Libbe of Rudolph/ Libbe, Inc., met with James Hartung, the port authority's president, and Ralph “Chip” Hannon, the agency's director of new projects.

The four, in the joint statement, called it “a very successful meeting to clarify benchmark activities” for construction, and said the project was “tracking positively.”

The developers also promised to provide the board with monthly updates until groundbreaking, which isn't expected until at least spring.

Two of the frustrated board members - G. Opie Rollison and Jerry Chabler - said they welcomed the meeting but couldn't understand from the statement whether the meeting resulted in any deal that would alleviate fears or cause more delays.

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