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Published: Monday, 7/21/2008

Sylvania purchase looks to long term

BY ANGIE SCHMITT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The city is buying this property on Monroe Street for $165,000 as part of its plan to improve the area's curb appeal and appearance. The city is buying this property on Monroe Street for $165,000 as part of its plan to improve the area's curb appeal and appearance.
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The city of Sylvania has purchased the Scripture Supply Shop on Monroe Street in a strategic move hoped to improve the city's "curb appeal."

The city paid $165,000 for the home-business under an agreement that will transfer ownership only after the owner dies or closes shop. Securing the property, however, will allow the city to guide future development to comply with its corridor plan for Monroe and Main streets, Law Director Jim Moan said.

"It's been targeted as an area of keen interest for the city," Mr. Moan said.

Sylvania's City Council is working to implement its Gateway District plan, a long-term strategy to improve the appearance and walkability of Main Street downtown and Monroe Street between U.S. 23 and Silica Drive. The blueprint calls for the establishment of tree-lined boulevards, a river walk, and a downtown park - improvements designed to appeal to new businesses and shoppers.

The store could be converted into parkland that would provide public access to Ten Mile Creek. Or the city may turn it over to a developer who has a plan complementary with the city's vision for the major thoroughfare, Mayor Craig Stough said.

For 15 years, the city of Sylvania has been using its purchasing power to turn aging businesses into new development. Its latest purchase marks the first time the city's acquisitions have ventured beyond Main Street.

Sylvania's first foray into the world of real estate was in 1994, when it purchased a former car dealership at Main Street and Maplewood Avenue for $200,000. The city redeveloped the site into retail space using a private contractor. It is now being rented to Sofo Trattoria, Century 21 Pacesetter Realty, a law office, a nail salon, a Pilates studio, and a glass studio, city officials say.

Another major property acquisition was undertaken the same year when the city purchased a second car dealership and a gas station and storage facility on Main Street for about $1.6 million.

The site was redeveloped to include the Wingate by Wyndham hotel, Root Learning, and River Centre Clinic. Part of the site remains public property as River Centre Park.

Four years later, the city bought a Main Street post office for $170,000 and oversaw its conversion into a law office.

"The city, over time, has been able to identify property that needs to be redeveloped," Mr. Stough said. "We just have some old properties that need to be redeveloped."

A more recent purchase of the Sterling Store, in 2000, led to plans for a brick, two-story office and retail development on Main Street. The project received enthusiastic support from the city's architectural review board in May.

"The building itself is very complementary to the age of downtown Sylvania," Mr. Stough said.

Money for property purchases is drawn from the city's capital improvement fund, which stands at about $22 million, Scott Smith, finance director, said.

While other communities have room to focus their development efforts on formerly rural property, Sylvania is firmly enclosed between the boundaries of the township and the state line.

"We are more landlocked," Mr. Moan said. "The city of Sylvania's focus has been redevelopment as well as development."

Mr. Moan said more purchases may be forthcoming as planning efforts for Main and Monroe streets continue.

"Our long-term plan is to reduplicate the types of successes we've had elsewhere in our downtown," Mr. Moan said. "We're certainly looking at additional acquisitions."

Contact Angie Schmitt at:

aschmitt@theblade.com

or 419-724-6104.



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