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Published: Thursday, 12/14/2006

Grant award targets area near the Marina District

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Community organizers Kathleen Kovacs and Hugh Grefe said grant money will be partly used to draft a master plan. Community organizers Kathleen Kovacs and Hugh Grefe said grant money will be partly used to draft a master plan.
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With the Marina District beginning to take shape on East Toledo's riverfront, attention is beginning to focus on the quiet neighborhood of single-family homes across Front Street.

A nonprofit planning agency is expected to announce today a grant of $200,000 to help the Garfield neighborhood capitalize on the hoped-for $250 million investment in the Marina District.

Hugh Grefe, senior program director for Local Initiatives Support Corp., said community organizations will use the money to survey the neighborhood, draft proposals, sponsor community meetings, and produce a master plan. They also hope to inject some confidence that will spur residents to spruce up their homes and businesses.

He said the goal is to ensure that neighbors have a say in the plan that would be used by Toledo City Council and the Toledo Plan Commission to guide development of the Garfield neighborhood as well as the Main Street-Starr Avenue commercial corridor.

The year-long study will ask residents and owners, "How do we best springboard ahead this whole neighborhood because of the Marina District," Mr. Grefe said.

The recipient, which competed with other local applicants for the grant, is a group calling itself Connecting the Pieces. Participants include Housing East Redevelopment Corp., Neighborhood Housing Services, River East Economic Revitalization Corp., River East Associates, and the East Toledo Family Center.

LISC channels money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to community development groups.

Darlene Kittle, who lives at 1302 Mott Ave., said yesterday that the help is much needed.

"This is a nice little neighborhood," she said, with good local businesses.

But she said there are many problems: break-ins, people dumping trash in the streets, and "wanna-be" gangs threatening residents.

"I wouldn't mind having this neighborhood cleaned up," Ms. Kittle, 46, said. Visible from her house are the smokestacks of the shuttered Toledo Edison Acme power plant that dominates the 125-acre Marina District between Front, I-280, Main, and the river.

Stephen Herwat, city plan director, said the Garfield neighborhood was the only census tract in East Toledo to gain population from 1990 to 2000.

"That tells us that it is a very good neighborhood of affordable housing that is attracting young families," Mr. Herwat said.

Dan Steingraber, a real estate appraiser and president of River East Associates, said his organization will commission a detailed inventory of buildings on Main and Starr to show to potential outside investors, including which buildings are for sale or lease.

"Professional developers get a comfort level from that kind of plan," Mr. Steingraber said.

He said he has fielded calls from people interested in buying real estate near the Marina District as an investment, but hasn't seen much buying yet.

"There's certainly some interest there, and people are putting their feelers out," he said.

The first community meeting is planned for 7 p.m. Jan. 11 at the East Toledo Family Center.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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