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Published: Thursday, 4/21/2005

Steam plant project may start before end of April

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Mayor Jack Ford predicted hopefully in January, "[We'll] have some mortar and nails and planks going in [the former Toledo Edison steam plant] as early as April."

One day after pushing the steam plant project through Toledo City Council, the mayor's staff yesterday hammered out a plan that could make the mayor's hopes for an April ribbon-cutting come true - even it may be months before developers can begin construction.

The plan calls for developers David Ball and Jim Jackson to begin preliminary work on the steam plant by next week, using the city's $300,000 to pay the bills.

Council approved a development agreement Tuesday night, including the $300,000 city contribution, giving Mr. Ball and Mr. Jackson the green light to apply for historic tax credits.

Mr. Ball said he can't commit to starting full-fledged construction until they have approval from the National Park Service on the use of 20-percent historic tax credits, on which financing for the $20 million project depends. That process could take four months.

The $300,000 contribution from the city's capital improvement fund could be used almost immediately, said Mary Chris Skeldon, a spokesman for the mayor. She said the developers' expenditures would be reimbursed as individual tasks are done and inspected by the city.

Some of the likely preliminary work will be a complete assessment of the building condition, permits, temporary electric service, demolition and clearance of areas for elevators and utilities, excavation of the new building "footprint," asphalt in the north parking area, and masonry tuckpointing.

Mr. Ball said his spending on the project will be "completely open book," meaning city officials and the trade unions will have the right to scrutinize every check and invoice.

The unions have pressured the developers to employ only union contractors - a commitment Mr. Ball has refused to give.

As partners in Water Street Development Co. LLC, Mr. Ball and Mr. Jackson have agreed to use $19.7 million in private financing and equity to convert the former steam plant to an upscale waterfront residential address.

Their plan calls for 70 rental units in the existing steam plant structure and 34 units in a new addition that will be sold to owners. Most of the rental units and all of the for-sale units will have two bedrooms.

Councilman George Sarantou, chairman of council's finance committee, said the administration's plan to reimburse the developer for preliminary work makes sense - even if it suits the mayor's political timetable.

"This is an accomplishment for downtown Toledo because this project has been talked about for a long time," Mr. Sarantou said.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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