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Published: Tuesday, 12/11/2001

Developer wants action on offer for steam plant

A California developer has sweetened his offer to take over the former Toledo Edison Steam Plant in hopes of winning city council approval before Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's term ends.

However, council President Peter Ujvagi said the steam plant probably will not come up for a vote in today's meeting, the last scheduled session of city council this year.

Skip Chodak, project coordinator for Somerville Development, Inc., has agreed to pay $550,000 for acquisition of the steam plant, according to the mayor's office. The payments would start in the sixth year of the deal and could be spread over the next 19 years.

City council members last week requested payment of the $550,000, which was the amount of money the council approved to buy out the previous developer brought in by the Finkbeiner Administration to develop the old power plant on the waterfront.

The administration assured city council that no capital improvements funds would be spent on the project.

Mr. Chodak and architect Jonathon Sandvick of Cleveland have proposed a $10.6 million project to convert the former steam plant, now known as Water Street Station, to market-rate luxury apartments, with some retail shops and a health club. The plan includes a 1 percent loan of $1 million from the city.

The plan has the enthusiastic backing of Mayor Finkbeiner. He has identified the project as one of four he would like council to approve before he leaves office.

Mr. Ujvagi said council has not had time to review the changes, which were given to council members yesterday after being negotiated over the weekend. He said one more hearing is necessary.

One of council's concerns is an apparent “softness” in the market for apartments in and around the downtown area.

Two buildings that were developed with assistance from the city government - The Hillcrest, 241 16th St., and Museum Place, 2330-2350 Monroe St. - are only 75 percent full.

Deborah Younger, acting director of economic development, said the administration has answered all of council's questions and the measure should be acted on by city council.

“Most of the council people seem to say that they like it. This is the best proposal that we've had to date,” Ms. Younger said. “We'd like council to move forward.”

The mayor forwarded a letter from Mr. Chodak that suggested delays by city council could prevent construction from beginning next year.

In his letter, Mr. Chodak said the construction can't begin until the approval of federal historic tax credits - a process that takes up to nine months.

That means even if council approves the project tonight, the developer couldn't begin work until September.

Ms. Younger said further delays could push the start of construction into 2003.

However, the mayor and Mr. Chodak said in early November that construction would begin in the spring and would be completed within a year.

Mr. Ujvagi said council also wants to hear details from Jimmy Jackson, a professional basketball player from Toledo, who has submitted a rival bid for the steam plant.



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