Mayor Jack Ford and special assistant John Loftus will head to Las Vegas later this month to find a redeveloper for Southwyck Shopping Center at the International Conference of Shopping Centers convention.
They'll go equipped with design schemes for Southwyck commissioned by Larry Dillin, developer of the $250 million Levis Commons retail, office, and residential complex under construction in Perrysburg.
The May 22-25 trip will be a chance to test drive the development options being produced by Mr. Dillin's architect. Those options range from keeping Southwyck as an enclosed mall, to retaining the Dillard's store and building up an outdoor shopping area, to replacing the whole mall with new housing and retail.
"If nobody bites on Southwyck as Southwyck, we'll know we've got to change course," Mr. Loftus said. "I don't want to waste any more time going after something that just doesn't work. The ICSC provides an excellent place to get feedback."
The International Council of Shopping Centers is billed as the world's largest gathering of real estate and retail professionals. More than 30,000 people, including shopping center developers and owners, leasing agents, municipal officials, and products and service vendors are expected to attend.
Mr. Ford announced the trip plans in his State of the City speech in February. Joining the mayor will be Steve Seaton, the city's director of economic and community development.
The trip is expected to cost "a couple thousand" dollars. The city will pay under $10,000 for the design plans and about $4,000 for a brochure to distribute to potential retailers, Mr. Loftus said. The money will come from the remaining $75,000 in the Edison Compact fund provided to the city by Toledo Edison in 1995 to be spent on economic development.
Mr. Dillin, who also is the proposed developer of the $200 million Marina District on the east bank of the Maumee River in Toledo, said Southwyck's underused condition is an impediment to reinvestment on Reynolds Road.
"My personal opinion is its days as a strong re-
gional mall presence are probably over, and there needs to be a reinvestment in that site and probably a new vision for it," Mr. Dillin said.
"Our company likes to do projects of large scale, and we like to do community-building projects," he said.
He disagreed with the suggestion that he has a conflict of interest in helping redesign Southwyck. He said the 319,000-square-foot Town Center at Levis Square is about 70 percent leased.
Mr. Loftus said he is confident that Mr. Dillin does not see Southwyck as a potential threat. To make sure, he said, he had Mr. Dillin talk with Westfield America Trust, owner of Westfield Shoppingtown Franklin Park. The national retailing chain last year proposed redeveloping South-wyck but put the project on hold for lack of a major anchor.
Mr. Loftus said Westfield and Southwyck owner Sherman Dreiseszun are participating in the effort.
Mr. Dillin said he has turned the project over to his freelance architect, James Paresi, a designer/master planner, who also produced the drawings for Levis Commons and the Marina District.
He said his own services are being donated, but Mr. Paresi will be compensated.
District City Councilman Rob Ludeman said he approves of the upcoming trip and Mr. Dillin's involvement. He said he has no objection to demolishing some or all of Southwyck.
"I'd certainly be open to about anything at this point," Mr. Ludeman said.
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