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Published: Wednesday, 4/20/2005

Council gives approval to steam plant project

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo City Council last night unanimously approved a $20 million redevelopment plan for the former Toledo Edison steam plant along the Maumee River in hopes of fueling the growth of downtown residential living.

The deal with Water Street Development Co. LLC - a partnership of Toledo developer David Ball and NBA player Jimmy Jackson - calls for the expenditure of $300,000 in city capital funds to help with construction on the building.

The measure passed 11-0, with Councilman Phillip Copeland absent.

Mr. Jackson and Mr. Ball, along with Cleveland architect Jonathan Sandvick, plan to convert the existing 1895 structure and a large addition into 111 rental and condominium units.

Seventy-seven mostly one-bedroom rental units will be carved out of the former steam generating plant, and 34 for-sale units will be in a new addition facing the river.

The project would have indoor parking spaces and 30 surface spaces on the north side of the structure.

Mayor Jack Ford said the redeveloped building "will be a prime site to move into." He said its residents will enjoy the use of 20 dock spaces the city is allocating to the Water Street Station project, as it is officially known. He also cited plans in the works to convert adjacent Promenade Park land into an amphitheater.

Mr. Ford alluded to the intense debate that took place, especially over claims of a rival bidder that he could have done the project without the city's $300,000.

"Ordinances are just like making sausage. It's not really pretty sometimes," the mayor said.

A Tiffin developer, Rod Kagy, claimed his application for the steam plant project in August didn't get a fair hearing because the mayor already had made up his mind.

The mayor said his staff was able to generate at least 10 letters of reference for the developer's chosen construction manager, Jera Contractors Inc. of Akron.

A carpentry union official had complained the company wasn't well known and was too small to handle the steam plant project.

The development agreement came after a "responsible bidder's" pledge was signed by Mr. Ball. The pledge sets 17 criteria for the contractors Water Street Development will use, such as good performance records and a practice of providing health-care and retirement packages for employees.

Councilman Frank Szollosi, who pushed for the agreement, said he was disappointed he wasn't able to get a binding commitment to use union workers only but said a federal regulation forbids such a commitment when federal funds are involved.

Water Street Development Co. LLC intends to apply for a 20 percent tax credit available from the U.S. Department of the Interior when buildings on the National Register of Historic Places are rehabilitated in keeping with their original design.

Mr. Ball said some minor work and inspection can take place, but construction won't start until after the tax credits are approved - a process that can take 90 days.

He said he was pleased with the unanimous vote of council.

"I'm relieved, but I'm pleased that when you get unanimous support, it shows they truly believe you are the one to do the job," Mr. Ball said.

Mr. Jackson did not attend Monday night's four-hour council committee hearing on the matter or yesterday's council vote because he was in Sacramento playing with the Phoenix Suns.

The city, which owns the former steam plant, already has spent $1.85 million to accommodate previous development efforts.

Since 1999, council has approved agreements with the Alexander Co. of Madison, Wis., and Somerville Development Inc. of Cleveland. Both efforts ended before construction could start.

Mr. Ball said the developers' fee typically is 18 percent and would be taken after the project is successful. He said none of the $300,000 from the city would go to the developers. The money is budgeted to be spent primarily on a variety of construction-related issues before the property deed is transferred to Water Street Development Co. LLC. City law allows capital improvement funds to be used only on city-owned property.

Also yesterday, council approved:

●A permit for a city-owned police tow lot on Dura Avenue near Detroit Avenue. The ordinance passed 8-3, with Councilmen Betty Shultz, Rob Ludeman, and Bob McCloskey voting no.

City Safety Director Joe Walter said the cleanup of the 35-acre site, previously used for storage of a variety of vehicles and tanks, is about 80 percent complete.

He said no environmental hazards have been found, and he said the cleanup should be finished in a week.

He said construction of the parking facilities, building, fencing, and other improvements could be completed as early as Aug. 1.

The city is taking over the storage of vehicles that have been ordered towed by police. Mayor Ford contends the use of a central lot will be more convenient to vehicle owners than having to travel to 16 lots, as currently is done. In addition, the operation is expected to generate at least $500,000 in additional city revenue.

The Toledo Towing Association has sued in U.S. District Court to stop the plan.

●A permit for a convenience store at 3819 Haverhill Drive. The application was amended to allow only one additional island curb cut, on Berdan Avenue, and deny a curb cut that the applicant, Ben Sayed, had sought on Haverhill.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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