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Port authority, growth agency aid central city

A coalition of neighborhood advocates yesterday signed up what it considers two unusual partners to spark redevelopment in the central city: the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority and the Regional Growth Partnership.

The new coalition, which considers itself the first of its kind in the nation, has raised $100,000 in seed money. It hopes to lure about $7 million in grants or other financing to continue redeveloping business districts from I-280 to Monroe Street.

“We speak of there being a renaissance city. Well, this coalition is the nucleus of the renaissance of the city,” said Toledo Councilwoman Edna Brown.

The port authority - which has a budget supplemented by Lucas County taxpayers - has evolved in the last four decades to overseeing the region's seaport, train station, and two airports. It also has become the area's lead economic development agency, though it pays the growth partnership to handle economic development.

Each agency is giving $20,000. Leaders of both said while they've never joined such a coalition, it makes sense because of their roles.

“Vital, vibrant, successful neighborhoods are as much a part of economic development for northwest Ohio as any facet of economic development,” said James Hartung, the port authority president.

The authority's involvement could reach far beyond a donation. Besides helping find grant money, the agency has a financing arm that arranges low-interest loans for businesses.

“We will see this [donation] as a first step,” said Tom Palmer, a port board member.

The port authority and growth partnership join the CBS Corridors Coalition - an umbrella group of neighborhood groups, businesses, hospitals, schools, and churches. The eight-year-old group's focus is to redevelop the main corridors of Cherry, Bancroft, and Summit streets - hence the “CBS” in its name.

Of those three streets, Summit will get the most attention in the first three years.

If it can raise the $7 million, the group plans to spend $2.6 million remaking the street landscape from Cherry to Chestnut streets, as well as some surrounding streets. Plans include adding lights, trees, sidewalks, and signs, among other things.

NorthRiver Development Corp., one of five neighborhood groups, hopes the new streetscape will spur its 15-year, $82 million plan to redevelop Summit from Cherry to I-280, complete with marinas and waterfront condominiums.

The rest of the money would be split among the five neighborhood groups - which also include Neighborhoods in Partnership, Warren Sherman Area Council, and Toledo Olde Towne Community Organization - for expenses ranging from marketing studies to building refurbishing.

Terry Glazer, the head of the Lagrange Development Corporation, said the coalition wants to raise enough money to pay for a second three-year round of redevelopment, which would include big-ticket items in the three neighborhoods that didn't get the streetscape improvements in the first round.

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