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Published: Monday, 9/22/2003

Sour note opens marina review

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A 10-member committee set to review proposals for the Marina District meets today for the first time, but at least one member thinks the whole process should start over.

Rick Rudnicki, an East Toledoan and chairman of the board of River East Economic Revitalization Corp., said he was disappointed in the responses to the city's request for proposals.

“It's just inadequate that only five proposals came in for a $200 million project,” Mr. Rudnicki said.

Mr. Rudnicki's comments yesterday, which he also expressed as a panelist on the public-affairs show Carty and Company that aired yesterday on WTVG-TV, Channel 13, drew criticism from another member of the committee.

Councilman Peter Gerken said Mr. Rudnicki should save his views for the committee discussion.

“Any comment by any member of the selection committee is premature,” Mr. Gerken said. “I don't think anybody ought to hijack the process with their personal comments. Rick agreed to be part of a process. It's not the Rudnicki selection committee.”

Mr. Gerken defended the RFP - “request for proposals” - that was distributed in July. He said it made clear that the city isn't in a position to finance the project.

“It was important to frame the RFP so we get the proper kind of responses,” Mr. Gerken said. “It's appropriate to let the developers know up front what our role is. It's important to deal in real terms.”

Mr. Rudnicki said the language of the RFP was negative and could give a potential developer the impression that the convention center was the most important project. City Councilman Bob McCloskey has also complained that the RFP was negative in tone.

Mayor Jack Ford said in a news conference held Sept. 8 that he was pleased with the caliber of proposals.

The 11-page request for proposals was drafted with assistance from Tom Chema, of Gateway Consultants Group, Inc., of Cleveland, who has a $50,000 contract with the city to help recruit applicants for the development.

The RFP recaps the points made in a report earlier this year from Mr. Chema.

That report found no private developers were willing to finance an arena on the east side of the river. It also said that Lucas County was unlikely to finance the arena in East Toledo because of its obligations to the SeaGate Convention Centre downtown. And it said that the University of Toledo was unwilling to participate by playing its basketball games there.

The RFP asked developers to spell out the type of development they propose, the cost, the construction time involved, and what help would be needed from the city.

Mr. Chema said yesterday that the city owed outside developers the truth about the Marina District situation. He said the two reasons there weren't more responses was the poor economy and the fact that no local government entity is willing to finance the arena.

“We got that RFP in the hands of roughly 80 developers, and you want to give people as much information as we can give them,” Mr. Chema said. “I thought we had put together a document that encouraged anyone to make any kind of proposal whatsoever.”

City officials hope the Marina District will cover 125 acres with entertainment, residential, and commercial projects that include a new arena. It would be on the east bank of the Maumee River between the Martin Luther King Jr. and I-280 bridges.

Mr. Ford has said he hopes to have a recommendation from the committee by mid-October.

The administration released the names of the five firms making the proposals, and some general information about them, but details of proposed developments, costs, and timetables are being withheld.

In addition to Mr. Rudnicki and Mr. Gerken, the committee members are East Toledo resident Kathy Mott; University of Toledo finance and business administration professor Paul Kozlowski; Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority board members Ken Dobson and Margarita DeLeon; Jim Mettler, director of brownfield programming for the port authority; Steven Best, the city's commissioner of real estate and the Marina District project director; Owens Community College President Christa Adams; and attorney Rick Mitchell of Shumaker Loop and Kendrick. Mr. Chema and his assistant, Patrick Zohn, will serve as nonvoting members.



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