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Published: Thursday, 1/13/2005

Ford says he'll boost funds for incentives

Mayor Jack Ford gave a first-ever state-of-Toledo economic development address to Toledo Plan Commission members yesterday, some of whom had complained that too little has been proposed to spur investment.

In response, Mr. Ford said he would increase the amount set aside for incentives in the city's capital improvements program - meant to pay for building things - from $300,000 to $500,000. The city has upped its estimate of income tax revenue for 2005.

"I know I heard through the grapevine some of you thought that we were being a little short in our thinking," Mr. Ford told the commissioners. "I hope going to $500,000 with economic development money set aside is sufficient."

The extra money is meant to entice developers to buy and build in Toledo because there would be up-front city money for nettlesome development expenses, such as preliminary engineering costs, that could be picked up by the city.

"I felt $300,000 wasn't enough, too modest to start out with," Mr. Ford said. "We would then be prepared to offer incentives when development opportunities come our way."

During his address, Mr. Ford told commissioners the owners of the sputtering Southwyck Shopping Center and developers could be close to a deal to remake the area as an "eclectic" retail and residential center.

He would not give details, citing confidentiality, but he said city officials would travel to Kansas City, Mo., in the coming weeks to visit with Southwyck co-owner Sherman Dreiseszun to push for a sale. The issue is price, Mr. Ford said.

"It's a prime piece of property. It's frankly been allowed to deteriorate over the years, and it's been tough dealing with the owners," he said. "If we can come up with the right plan. If we can get the right mix ... that might be a way to get Southwyck off the dime."

Bill Carroll, Toledo's economic development director, said there are three serious buyers and the city had an appraiser come up with a value, which Mr. Carroll would not disclose.

"We are moving along. It's not something that happens overnight," he said.

There's barely a pulse now at the South Toledo mall, and it will soon be abandoned by its remaining anchor, Dillard's, which could send it into cardiac arrest. Dillard's intends to move to the planned Shops at Fallen Timbers in Maumee.

Mr. Ford also told commission members:

w●"Dirt should be flying by April" on the former Toledo Edison steam plant on the Maumee River in downtown Toledo to convert the historic building into apartments. The parties involved have almost finalized a development plan that will be considered by City Council.

w●President Bush will propose more cuts in the federal Community Development Block Grant program that could mean $500,000 less for Toledo.

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