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Published: Thursday, 1/29/2004

Marina District: Housing s big role defended


The proposed developer of the Marina District yesterday defended his emphasis on waterfront housing instead of the upscale shopping, multi-screen theaters, and hotels sketched by a previous developer.

Larry Dillin, president of Dillin Development Corp. of Perrysburg, told a Toledo City Council public hearing that he envisions a $330 million project. That s almost twice the investment proposed in 2000 by former Marina District developer Frank Kass, of Columbus, who has dropped out of contention for the project.

Mr. Dillin is the lead developer of River East Joint Venture, a group selected in November by Mayor Jack Ford to take over development of the 125-acre project. The group still needs city council approval.

Renamed “Esplanade at River East,” the development would extend between Front Street and the Maumee River, from the Martin Luther King, Jr., Bridge to the I-280 bridge, and possibly beyond in both directions along the river.

It would have a new sports arena, entertainment pods, parks, community shopping, and up to 1,500 new housing units.

The turn toward housing disappointed at least one speaker, who urged council to hold out for a more ambitious shopping district.

Kathleen Steingraber, who lives in Oregon and is the executive director of the Toledo Warehouse District Association, said Toledoans bought into the Marina District because of its promise of shopping and entertainment.

She said new housing brings new demands on city resources, but doesn t bring new people into the city.

“If the demographics disprove the viability of upscale shopping, then those same demographics disprove the viability of upscale housing,” Ms. Steingraber said. “We want to bring people from outside Toledo to spend their money here. We should stick closer to the original plan.”

Mr. Dillin said the East Toledo site won t support upscale shopping. And downtown doesn t need new office buildings or hotels, he said.

Mr. Dillin said a rule of thumb for upscale shopping is 60,000 households with median family income of $70,000 within a five-mile radius. The marina district site does not meet that test, he said.

He said the $270-million Perrysburg development of which he is co-developer, the 200-acre Levis Commons, aims for that kind of market. The proposed development is at I-475 and State Rt. 25. The $53 million Town Center at Levis Commons project would have a book store, shops, restaurants, and a 20-screen theater.

“We want to turn the clock back, create quality neighborhoods, draw people back, and take advantage of the waterfront that Toledo has never taken advantage of,” Mr. Dillin said. “What won t work is upscale lifestyle shopping.”

Mr. Dillin said attracting home buyers back into the city would fuel commercial and business development.

The 90-minute hearing drew about two dozen spectators, and close questioning from councilmen who wondered when council would have an opportunity to vote to approve a Marina District plan.

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