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Published: 6/12/2004

County may force work on building near ballpark

BY DALE EMcH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

If Myron Stewart won't renovate the facade of his building at a prime corner near Fifth Third Field, the Lucas County commissioners may do it themselves - and bill him for the cost.

Mr. Stewart, who bought the building at 519 Monroe St. from the county two years ago, has until June 20 to complete the remodeling. With the building still far from finished, it's clear that won't happen.

The contract allows an association of property owners around the ballpark - led by the county - to give 60 days notice that facade work will be completed and a lien placed on the building to cover the cost.

Commissioner Maggie Thurber said she and her colleagues may set that process in motion at a meeting on June 22. She said she thinks people are tired of walking by the building without seeing any progress.

"Our jewels of the downtown community are the docks and

the ballpark," she said. "You just can't have boarded-up buildings next to your jewels."

Mr. Stewart, owner of the Toledo Journal and an investor in local Church's Chicken franchises, said he'll begin working on the facade June 21. He said a project he's trying to develop in the area of Bancroft Street and Upton Avenue has consumed much of the time he might have devoted to his building near the ballpark.

"The majority has been not being able to have a tenant," Mr. Stewart said. "The first six months of the year, I got bogged down in something that's taken me months to clean up. I put so much time in this other thing that, quite frankly, I didn't have the time to devote to this."

He said he understands his building is on a prominent corner and draws extra attention because of its proximity to Fifth Third Field. "If you go down there [by the ballpark], you're going to get some criticism. But at the same time, I've probably gotten more support than criticism," he said.

Joe Napoli, general manager of the Mud Hens, said old buildings - particularly buildings that are in such disrepair - take time to renovate. He said that's why the county allowed two years for projects to be finished.

"The ball club strongly encouraged that," Mr. Napoli said. "It's apparent that the building on Monroe Street is not going to be developed within that two-year time frame. At the very least, facade improvements have to be done."

Harry Barlos, president of the commissioners, said a clause in the contract that allows the ballpark association to complete renovations was included to protect the $39.2 million investment the county made in the stadium project.

"I'm surprised by the lack of progress on a number of the buildings [in the area]," Mr. Barlos said.

"The potential on that side of [Fifth Third Field] is tremendous."

Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak said before she decides whether to vote to have the county begin facade renovations, she's wants to see what progress Mr. Stewart makes before the June 22 meeting.

Contact Dale Emch at:

daleemch@theblade.com

or 419 724-6061.



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