Saturday, Apr 21, 2018
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Steam plant plan rejected by city panel

Toledo City Council's zoning committee yesterday rejected the latest plan for the former Toledo Edison steam plant, now the $10.6 million Water Street Station project, saying it doesn't have the public access the panel approved more than a year ago.

Council acted on an appeal brought by Downtown Toledo, Inc., which argued that the plan - 76 luxury apartment units with an exterior parking lot - was not in keeping with the downtown Toledo master plan.

The old steam plant is in Promenade Park along the Maumee River.

The issue now goes to a vote of the full council Tuesday, but yesterday's 10-0 vote left little doubt as to the likely outcome.

If council rejects the revised plan, which was approved by the Toledo Plan Commission June 12, the developers, Somerville Development of Cleveland, would revert to the original design.

That plan, which council approved in February, 2002, called for 99 apartments, construction of a large addition on the river side of the steam plant with two levels of interior parking, and space for a health club or a restaurant. It also called for an $800,000 loan from the city's Community Development Block Grant. The developers had scaled back the project late last year, in part to avoid having to use the city loan.

“The developer is absolutely willing to go with the original proposal if the supplemental funding is there,” said Jonathon Sandvick, architect for the developer.

Asked if the $800,000 loan was still available, city development director Steven Seaton said he didn't know.

The vote puts council at odds with Mayor Jack Ford, whose officials have approved the revised plans.

Mr. Seaton urged council not to reject the plan because of the need for high-quality residential units downtown, and because of the poor market for retail downtown.

He said the steam plant lacks free parking, which is important to retail. “Retailers hate to be urban pioneers because they go broke,” he said, citing the former Portside Festival Marketplace as an example. Portside, now the COSI science museum, opened in 1984 and closed six years later.

Pete Gozza, president of Downtown Toledo, Inc., said the downtown master plan adopted by council in January, 2002, calls for some public use of the cavernous waterfront building. “Our concern is for the highest and best use of that property, which is valuable riverfront land,” he said.

Councilman Betty Shultz said city expectations for the steam plant since the city acquired the building from Toledo Edison in 1997 were for a public use. “I'm tired of putting taxpayer dollars into somebody else's residential project,” she said.

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