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Published: Sunday, 6/19/2005

Council panel's leader eyes filling vacancy left by O-I

The Toledo City Council committee in charge of economic development has a new chairman, and finding a replacement for Owens-Illinois Inc., whose upcoming departure may leave a large part of one of Toledo's tallest buildings vacant, tops his list of priorities.

And he said city officials already have a potential target company in mind.

Councilman Frank Szollosi, who was appointed chairman of the committee last week replacing Wade Kapszukiewicz, listed "stabilizing and expanding tenants" at One SeaGate as one of his "top-tier projects."

Many worry that the riverfront property, known as the O-I building, could grow dark following the company's announcement last month that it will leave downtown in September, 2006, for Perrysburg after 25 years of leasing the space.

O-I is the building's primary tenant.

But Mr. Szollosi said that he and other city officials have been in ongoing negotiations with a Detroit-area transportation company to fill O-I's spot.

Declining to go into details for fear of spoiling negotiations, Mr. Szollosi said the company could bring 400 employees to fill the space - more than O-I's departing 340.

"We started talking long before O-I made their announcement to leave," said Mr. Szollosi, who noted that the firm would fit well in Toledo's "transportation cluster," including its port, docks, and rail infrastructure.

"We're not just throwing darts at companies," he said.

Mr. Szollosi's other top projects will include looking for ways to bolster the Westgate Village Shopping Center, which recently lost several tenants, and refurbishing Southwyck Shopping Center, which he hopes to turn into an open-air mall similar to Levis Commons in Perrysburg.

Both areas, he said, are surrounded by enough "affluent rooftops" (rich homes) to support additional retail investment.

Other new City Council officers include Karyn McConnell Hancock, who was appointed president pro tem.

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