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Published: Friday, 5/11/2001

City waits for reply on decrepit strip mall

BY JOE MAHR
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A local minister hasn't given the city a dilapidated North Toledo strip mall owned by his small church, prompting city officials to claim he reneged on the deal they made with him.

Neighborhood groups consider the development the latest setback to gaining control of what they say is a dangerous eyesore. The Rev. Edgar Jackson, 75, has been trying for seven years to build a combination church, day-care center, job-training workshop, and car wash in the nine-acre complex on Buckeye Street at Central Avenue. It once was anchored by a Cook's department store.

In 1998, the city condemned the 90,000-square-foot strip mall, owned by Greater Unity Baptist Church. Mr. Jackson has since held Sunday services in the parking lot.

Neighborhood groups, like the Lagrange Village Council, complain that the property has become a haven for criminals, trash, and rats, as well as a dangerous enticement for bored children. They and a grassroots group - North Toledo Association - held a small protest at the site yesterday.

“We feel that the reverend has disregard for all of our families and the area,” said Chris Cortez, a Lagrange council representative who lives a few blocks away.

The Lagrange council plans to host a public meeting June 12 for residents to offer ideas on what to do with the complex. Suggestions have ranged from single-family housing to a Boys and Girls club.

But John Madigan, the city's general counsel, said it could take six months for the city to gain control of the property, if Mr. Jackson exhausts his appeals.

Mr. Madigan said Mr. Jackson agreed in an April 9 court hearing to raise $200,000 by Wednesday or turn over the property. As part of the deal, the city agreed Mr. Jackson wouldn't have to pay any cleanup costs. Toledo Municipal Judge C. Allen McConnell ordered that a signed agreement be filed by April 27.

Mr. Madigan said he drafted a document, sent it to Mr. Jackson's attorney, Kollin Rice, and never heard back from Mr. Rice. When the deadline passed, Mr. Madigan filed a motion for a trial date and asked that Mr. Jackson again be forced to pay cleanup costs. Last week, city officials put the property on the city's “Dirty Dozen” list of worst properties.

Neither Mr. Jackson nor Mr. Rice returned telephone calls yesterday seeking comment.

But in an interview last month, Mr. Jackson said - with God's help - he would raise the money by Wednesday.



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