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Published: Thursday, 8/12/2004

Neighborhood groups want Port Authority funds

BY CHRISTOPHER D. KIRKPATRICK
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Drive through sections of Toledo and its once-grand economic past can be detected in the crumbling brick facades of classic architecture or by the darkened glass windows of now-shuttered corner stores.

Toledo could turn a significant economic corner if it revived these old buildings and main street-style business districts, often surrounded by residential communities, said Terry Glazer, the president of an alliance of local community development corporations. He is a former Toledo school board member.

Toward that end, the alliance, which uses federal block grant money to fight crime and economically improve neighborhoods, says it now wants a $350,000 piece of the port levy pie. The port levy takes in about $2.5 million annually.

The CDC Alliance wants to spend some of that economic development money - raised through a 0.4-mill port levy in Lucas County - directly on fading buildings and businesses in the neighborhoods.

"It would be strategically part of a larger revitalization plan," Mr. Glazer said, adding that each of the 11 CDCs has its own tailored blueprint for how to save the neighborhoods they represent. "The reason the alliance's plan makes the most sense is that we are not creating any new agency or bureaucracy, and it would be invested directly into the neighborhoods. We could invest it in a commercial building, which would create a business and a number of jobs."

The request has been included in a plan - one of at least five - created by a group of government and university officials for how the levy money should be used in the future. That money would only be available if the levy passes in November.

A successful campaign hinges on coming up with a palatable reorganization of how the money is used, officials say.

As it stands now, the $2.5 million is split between the port authority ($1.15 million) and the Regional Growth Partnership ($1.35 million), which was formed 10 years ago to create jobs by marketing 11 counties of northwest Ohio to industry.

The levy now costs the owner of a $100,000 home about $7.30 a year. But only Lucas County property owners pay the levy, even though the growth partnership covers 10 other counties, a point of irritation for some.

The desire to reorganize grew out of complaints from public leaders that the region collectively wasn't doing a good enough job creating and retaining jobs.

Local government commissioned a study last year that concluded Lucas County residents supported a "high budget" economic development effort without good enough results.

Since the release of the study in the spring, the working group formed and has been meeting to come up with a new plan. Meanwhile, four other plans have been released.

A discussion is set for Monday at a meeting of the port authority and the growth partnership.

The CDC Alliance proposal reflects the wishes of the working group, said Jim Hartung, president and CEO of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.

"It's part of the model for discussion," he said.

Mr. Hartung said dispersing the $350,000 would be through a competitive grant process among the neighborhoods and not in a lump sum.

Contact Christopher D. Kirkpatrick

at ckirkpatrick@theblade.com

or 419-724-6077



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