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Published: Wednesday, 5/30/2001

Repairs delay bids of buildings near new Hens stadium

BY GEORGE J. TANBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The last day to submit bids to buy any of seven Lucas County-owned buildings next to the new Mud Hens stadium has been pushed back 15 days while repairs continue on several of the buildings, county officials said.

The last day was to be Sunday.

“We're doing some work on the buildings that will save us money in the long run,” said Waymon Usher, director of economic and work force development for the county.

The county is spending about $500,000 on five of the buildings that run side-by-side along the west side of St. Clair Street between Washington and Monroe streets.

Work will include structural reinforcement, brickwork, and utility installation, said Sam Zyndorf, vice president of Zyndorf-Serchuk, the commercial real estate firm retained by the county to help sell the buildings. The other two buildings are at 519 and 523 Monroe St.

An eighth building, 406 Washington St., is being renovated by the county and will house the Mud Hens' administrative offices and a gift shop. The six-story building, which figures prominently into the ballpark design, is not for sale.

The county has sold 45 bid kits at $25 each, Mr. Zyndorf said. His company has directed two public tours of the buildings. There have been three private showings.

He said he believes there will be fewer than 10 bidders on the buildings.

While most of the interest has been from local developers, companies from Columbus, Cleveland, and Chicago have inquired about the buildings. Officials of Continental Real Estate Cos. of Columbus and Gladieux V Enterprises, Inc., who are developing the Marina District along the east bank of the Maumee River, have toured the buildings. “Other than Frank Kass [Continental's president], I don't see it going to any of the out-of-town players,” Mr. Zyndorf said. “The buildings are too small.”

“We're hoping the local folks will step up. We would like to see them there,” Mr. Usher said.

Possible uses for the buildings, which range from 4,800 square feet to 16,635 square feet, include restaurants, bars, office space, loft apartments, and retail stores, Mr. Zyndorf said. Only one of the seven buildings, 19 North St. Clair, has a clear view of the playing field.

According to Mr. Usher, the county is looking for something other than financial gain from the project. “We want to be sure the development is compatible with the ballpark. And we want to make sure the developers have the financial wherewithal to do what they say,” he said.

Whoever wins the contracts will have their work cut out for them, according to Mr. Zyndorf.

“They will make a huge financial commitment [rehabilitating] them,” he said. “The five buildings [on St. Clair] are nothing more than four walls and a roof.”

The two buildings on Monroe Street are in better condition, largely because they were recently occupied, he said.

Developer Mike Moriarty, who has restored 12 downtown buildings since 1990, said he will bid on the five St. Clair Street buildings.

He agreed with Mr. Zyndorf's assessment.

“The key to making ugly buildings successful is you have to see past the garbage,” he said. “It's a tremendous challenge. It never fails that you get halfway into a project and you find something and you have to change your plans. Sometimes the greatest obstacles become your greatest asset.”

Mr. Moriarty, whose plans include partnering ownership of the buildings with his tenants, called the project more challenging than usual because of the presence of the ballpark and the team's limited number of playing dates.

For instance, he believes it would be difficult for a restaurant to succeed. “There's only about 300 hours a year of prime business time. What business can survive on that?” he asked.

He sees retail establishments on the first floor and offices or apartments on the second floor as a better mix of tenants.

Mr. Usher said a committee of county officials and Mr. Zyndorf will review the bids, which are due June 18. The commissioners likely will announce the final decision in July, Mr. Zyndorf said.



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