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Published: Wednesday, 7/20/2005

I-280 bridge filmmaker eyes skyway visitor center

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
An architectural rendering of the Skyway Center calls for a hotel, restaurants, and shops. An architectural rendering of the Skyway Center calls for a hotel, restaurants, and shops.
MICHAEL SHAW Enlarge

The producer of a documentary about the Veterans' Glass City Skyway project is promoting a 14-story visitors' center for the I-280 bridge that would include a hotel, restaurants, and theater.

Michael Drew Shaw said yesterday the Skyway Center concept, designed to dovetail with the city of Toledo's Marina District development farther up the Maumee River, would help turn the $220 million bridge into a tourist destination in its own right.

"The view of the bridge only gets more exciting if you're in an atrium restaurant on the 14th floor ..." Mr. Shaw said.

Along with a penthouse restaurant and lounge, the tower concept includes retail shops, corporate office space, up to 80 guest rooms, and a 100-seat large-format theater that, among other things, would offer regular showings of a documentary Mr. Shaw is making about the bridge.

Potential outdoor features include a marina and bridge-themed miniature golf course. The concept also proposes a nightly laser-light show linking the building and bridge, whose centerpiece will be a 400-foot pylon with internally lit glass panels.

Bob Sitzenstock, a Maumee architect who created models of the building based on Mr. Shaw's concept, said it could be "a jewel that will invite people to come in to Toledo" instead of just driving through on I-280.

Fully built, the Skyway Center would cost about $15 million, Mr. Shaw said. But he doesn't foresee any public funding for the project, which would rely on private investment.

"Maybe I'm being naive, but I feel that if this

center is built properly, it should stand on its own merits," he said. "I'm not throwing my hand out and seeking taxpayer dollars."

Mr. Shaw said he and Mr. Sitzenstock have been working on the idea for several years.

The first site considered was Sunoco-owned land downstream of the bridge that is now the Ohio Department of Transportation's bridge-viewing picnic area. That location was scrapped because of an oil pipeline that runs beneath it, Mr. Shaw said.

The preferred location now is Edison Park, vacant land between the Craig Memorial Bridge and the former Toledo Edison Acme Generating Station, which is part of the proposed Marina District.

Other sites would be considered, Mr. Shaw said.

William Carroll, the city's development director, said he thought Mr. Shaw's concept was a good idea, so he passed it along to the Pizzuti Cos., the Columbus-based developer the city hired to manage the Marina District project.

"From a planning standpoint, something like that would fit right into the concept of the Marina District," Jim Miller, a Pizzuti executive vice president, said yesterday of the Skyway Center.

Mr. Miller said he couldn't comment on its financial viability without knowing more, but he credited Mr. Shaw with "good community spirit" and proactive thinking.

"He's putting creative concepts in Toledo," the developer said.

Mr. Shaw acknowledged that his concept is an elaborate one that might need scaling down to become reality. Right now, he said, he is hoping to secure a purchase option on a site so the financial aspects can be explored more fully.

"In my fertile imagination, I've overbuilt it," Mr. Shaw said. "I set the bar high on purpose."

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.



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