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Published: 2/16/2002

Financing is the top issue for marina developers

BY DALE EMcH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Most of the work that's being done on the Marina District project isn't going to be noticed by strolling the east side of the Maumee River.

The real action on the $175-million plan is going on behind the scenes.

Financing is being lined up to pay for the environmental cleanup at the site of the former Toledo Edison Acme plant that needs to be done before the gritty industrial area can be transformed into a complex envisioned to include a new sports arena, boat marina, restaurants, retail shopping, apartments, and a movie theater.

“We're working on the state dollars available for cleanup as well as working with the city,” said developer Frank Kass, chairman of Continental Real Estate Cos., of Columbus. “We're working on all the public money issues that have to be totally buttoned up before any title of property changes hands.”

Mr. Kass said some of the cleanup could begin this year if the money is available.

Voters gave the project a boost in November when they passed Issue 1, which gave the city government a one-time exemption from Section 79 of the city charter. The section bans the use of city funds in a sports arena complex without voter approval.

The city will put up $8 million for the streets and water lines needed for the project. Plans also call for the city to sponsor a multimillion-dollar tax-increment financing package for a parking garage and part of the costs for building the new sports arena.

Mr. Kass said last year that construction on the new arena should begin in 2003 with a completion goal of 2004, in time for the hockey season.

The support of former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner was important to the project, he said, and Jack Ford, who was elected mayor in November, also has been enthusiastic about the Marina District.

“He's been very, very up front,” Mr. Kass said. “He wants this done and he wants us doing it.”

Mr. Ford said the project is “a huge priority” for his administration and hopes that the success of The Docks, a popular string of restaurants that also are on the east side of the Maumee River, will carry over to the planned development.

“It will be a great boon not only to downtown Toledo and the East Side, but it also will bring that critical mass of entertainment and apartments that will bring Toledo to the next level we keep talking about, “ Mr. Ford said.

The mayor said cleaning up the site from its industrial use and transforming it into a viable area that draws people downtown would be a tremendous success for the city. Mr. Ford, former minority leader in the Ohio House, said he's met with Gov. Taft, Ohio Department of Development Director Bruce Johnson, and local legislators to try to come up with as much governmental financing as possible to help get the project off the ground.

“The governor told me that he agrees this should be the poster child of brownfield initiatives in Ohio,” Mr. Ford said. “It's extraordinarily important in the eyes of many. I would anticipate that project getting a lion's share of the capital improvements budget of the state.”

Toledo City Councilman Bob McCloskey, whose district would include the complex, said he thinks the Marina District will spark development along Front Street as well as the west bank of the Maumee River. He said he anticipates that property values on Front Street will increase because investors will want to be near an area that has the potential to be such a public draw.



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