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North Toledo group plans subdivision to lift community

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The North River Community Development Corp. is planning to build 32 single-family homes on a vacant plot of land near North Ontario and Bassett streets. The group hopes to capitalize on the new Chase Elementary School and the Manhattan Marsh wetlands area.

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For sale: New single-family homes, close to brand-new elementary school, park land, convenient to downtown, transportation, other amenities.

Sound appealing?

A North Toledo development organization hopes buyers think so.

North River Community Development Corp. plans to build Edison Place - a subdivision of 32 suburban-style, single-family homes on approximately 10 acres of vacant land near the intersection of North Ontario and Bassett streets less than three miles from downtown.

The three and four-bedroom homes will be near the new Chase Elementary School and the Manhattan Marsh wetlands area, each priced according to size and design at roughly market rate.

A model home is under construction.

The group hopes to interest both neighborhood residents and outsiders.

"We want to market this area to buyers that haven't considered this part of the city before," said Kim Cutcher, chief operating officer for United North, an alliance between the Lagrange and North River community development corporations.

United North spearheads a variety of projects in North Toledo, including efforts to promote economic development and improve housing.

North River, which acquired the property in the 1990s, will act as the developer of Edison Place.

It expects to complete the project within 5 to 10 years.

Because of its nonprofit status, it can assist buyers who have past credit issues or other problems as they seek financing, Ms. Cutcher said.

By combining new infrastructure and resources in a small area, North River hopes to have a positive impact on the North Toledo neighborhood, said Rey Boezi, a consultant on the project who visited similar developments in St. Paul.

A new school can have a powerful uplifting effect on a neighborhood, said Ron Victor, business manager for Toledo Public Schools.

Chase's state ranking is academic emergency, the state's lowest rating.

The new Chase building is part of the district's $660 million program to build schools.

Last month, Toledo Public Schools Superintendent John Foley announced that the school at 3315 Mayo St. will reorganize this fall into a "STEM Academy" with a focus on science, technology, engineering, and math.

The new school is tentatively scheduled to open in January, 2009, said Patty Mazur, spokesman for the district.

It will replace a structure that was built in 1894 and renovated in 1965.

In the 2007-08 school year, 97 percent of Chase's 225 students received a free or reduced-price lunch, Ms. Mazur said.

"[A new building] is a commitment from the school system to improve. It will just brighten up the whole neighborhood," Mr. Victor said.

Mr. Boezi added: "This concentration of resources is important, especially in a city where you have a lot of needs in a lot of neighborhoods. The results are greater when you don't break [resources] up in all these little pieces."

Another benefit of concentrated new infrastructure and investment is that other homeowners in the area might make improvements to their properties.

"People see that there are new sidewalks coming in, new houses," Mr. Boezi said.

"They say, 'This isn't a throwaway place.' It becomes a more stable neighborhood."

Housing and schools are two of the most important ingredients for a stable, successful neighborhood, said Alan Berube, research director for the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program, which studies urban issues.

But he is quick to point out, "New housing plus new schools does not necessarily equal economic prosperity."

Truly changing a neighborhood involves adding new people and changing dynamics.

"You can build a new school, but if what is inside the school doesn't change, the outcomes won't change either."

He added: "You want to make it a neighborhood of choice It should serve the needs of existing residents, but it should also appeal to people across the metro area."

In addition to the Edison Place subdivision, Ms. Cutcher said the long-term plan for the area involves building "green" condominiums or townhouses, possibly using salvaged materials from the current Chase school.

By incorporating the eco-friendly theme, and the nearby wetlands, North River hopes to appeal to a niche market of environmentally interested buyers.

"This wetland green space in the city is very unique and doesn't exist in many places," Ms. Cutcher said.

The Manhattan Marsh wetlands area is owned by a nonprofit group, Citizens for Buckeye Basin Parks.

The group has been protecting the land, said Tim Schetter, land, planning, and acquisition manager for the Toledo Area Metroparks, and is in discussions to turn it over to the Metroparks.

The long-term goal is to use the land as a park, Mr. Schetter said, though no agreement has been finalized.

"It is a surprisingly high-quality wetlands given that it is completely surrounded by urban development," he said.

Contact Kate Giammarise at:

kgiammarise@theblade.com

or 419-724-6133.

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