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Published: 3/23/2005

Maumee: Conant Street vacant lot's use divided by 3 views

BY RACHEL ZINN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Maumee officials are eagerly awaiting proposals from developers wanting to create a retail and apartment building on Conant Street, but some city residents have different ideas for the vacant site.

Some residents have asked city officials to consider converting the 200 block of Conant into an open space, while owners of some nearby businesses support making the site into a parking lot.

Brian Tomko, a Maumee resident, came up with the idea of turning the block into a small park with benches, trees, and possibly a fountain.

"People driving by would admire it, and it would really add to the atmosphere of downtown and draw people to Maumee," Mr. Tomko said. "It would complement what the city's already done downtown with the Maumee Indoor Theater and the new sidewalks and lampposts."

Sally Pfleghaar is another proponent of making a small park on Conant. She envisions the site as a town common where people could gather.

"It would give people a sense of identity," she said. "To me, it would make Maumee different from the downtown of any other small town. Village greens are the up and coming new things."

The idea also has some support from the Quality of Life group, a local organization dedicated to improving Maumee. City officials spoke to the group last month to explain their plans for the Conant lots.

"We had quite a few in the group who were in favor of having a little park there," said Eleanor Sayers, a member of the group.

Some business owners want a different outcome for the 200 block of Conant. They say the site should become a parking lot to alleviate parking problems that have existed for years in downtown Maumee.

"A lot of people would like to see parking over there," said Mark Nowak, owner of Monte's TV on Wayne Street. "Parking has always been an issue in the Uptown area."

Peggy Masters, owner of Maumee Quickprint on Conant, said it would be nice to have more businesses Uptown, but she worries that the new development will bring traffic and make parking more scarce. She said her customers must drive around the Uptown area several times before they can find a parking space.

"People aren't going to come to the shops if they don't have a place to park," she said. "Maumee City Council doesn't think there's a problem with parking, but there's a big problem."

John Jezak, city administrator, said he has heard from people about converting the Conant land into a park or parking lot, but he still believes new development with shops on the first floor and apartments or offices above is the best choice for the city.

"It will strengthen the existing commercial district and the appeal of living in Uptown Maumee," he said. "From an economic development perspective, the highest value use on a main drag in an uptown area is a retail or office use."

Mr. Jezak said the city has invested more than $400,000 in preparing the site for redevelopment. The city bought the former Hilltop Automotive station on Conant and demolished the gas station and the office building next door, which had housed the Maumee Chamber of Commerce offices.

By selling the land to a developer, the city hopes to recoup some of its costs and get tax revenue from businesses. Mr. Jezak said the tax money can be reinvested into other city projects.

He said the city has invested millions of dollars to developing parks and public spaces, including the Wolcott House and the Fallen Timbers battlefield site. He said the city is looking into creating a park where the Fort Miami Elementary School is located, but Conant is not a good place for a park.



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