Toledo mayoral candidate Keith Wilkowski yesterday announced a plan to turn Toledo around, beginning with several pledges geared toward revitalizing the downtown area.
Standing in front of Fifth Third Field, Mr. Wilkowski, 49, a Toledo lawyer and former Lucas County commissioner who lives in the Old Orchard area, began his speech by announcing his intention to place a new sports arena close to Fifth Third Field.
For over six years, Toledo leaders have been perplexed by where to place the new arena, said Mr. Wilkowski, a Democrat. It is time for action.
He said placing the sports arena in the east side s Marina District another possible location in what has now become a long-lasting, controversial debate would yield less economic benefit to the city.
Having acres and acres of asphalt parking on valuable riverfront property would be worse for the area economically, he said.
The announcement comes just before an east-side Party with Carty event scheduled today. Speculation is that former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, a Democrat, will say whether he ll run again for Toledo s top office.
Members of a group known as Friends of Carty, an exploratory committee for Mr. Finkbeiner s mayoral run, have maintained a strict silence regarding their candidate s decision.
So has Mr. Finkbeiner, though he s been acting like a candidate, attending numerous events throughout the city.
Mayor Jack Ford, a Democrat who is running for re-election, responded to Mr. Wilkowski s plan with a written statement saying that a decision on the arena s location was expected soon. We need to keep in mind that Toledo voted for the arena to be on the east side.
Councilman Rob Ludeman, a Republican mayoral candidate, agreed there was an overwhelming vote by the citizens to do an exemption for an east-side location. That s not necessarily a commitment but, in my opinion, that flies in the face of all the east-siders that have channeled their energy to getting it over there.
Mr. Wilkowski s other plans include aiding the planned Marina District by creating a tax increment financing district to boost public infrastructure there; allow deeds in the Marina District to be recorded as permanent, legally restrictive covenants to set high building standards; create an architectural review board to determine building designs and aesthetics, and create legislation to expand the downtown overlay district to include the Marina District land.
The overlay sets higher standards for building design and aesthetics.
Asked how east-siders would react to his plan to locate the arena downtown, Mr. Wilkowski said, You can t please everyone.
Mr. Wilkowski also said he would work toward relocating the University of Toledo college of law downtown.
Additionally, Mr. Wilkowski proposed offering tax incentives for people thinking about living downtown a one-time, 100 percent city income tax break for homeowners living downtown for a period of two years. He also offered a break on water bills of up to 5 percent for citywide businesses that installed wireless Internet technology.
Mr. Wilkowski maintained that the cost to the city s budget for the initiatives would be not significant in light of the benefits to downtown.
Referring to the Erie Street Market as a flea market, and not a high-end one, Mr. Wilkowski said he would take competitive proposals from investors willing to engage in a public-private partnership to revitalize the property.
We should be selling high- quality, niche stuff as opposed to buying knee socks, he said.
Mr. Ford, in his statement, said the downtown area has seen unparalleled development, including three new housing projects that he said would bring hundreds of new residents.
He defended the Erie Street Market by noting that it recently added a new meat market and wine seller.
Councilman Frank Szollosi said the idea of moving the law school downtown was an idea that I ve been speaking publicly about for months now. Mr. Szollosi noted that he and several other city officials had encouraged private wireless investments throughout Toledo, though no city money was offered as an incentive.
I guess we d rather spend our money on police and fire at this point if the private sector s going to do it, Mr. Szollosi said.
Mr. Ludeman said Mr. Wilkowski s plan was nothing new.
All the candidates for mayor are going to say, I want the downtown to thrive, he said. You re going to hear a lot of ideas thrown out there by mayoral candidates, some will be the same thing we ve heard before, some will be a blend of the old and the new.
As for downtown as a whole, as a real estate agent, based on what s going on downtown, it seems like it s going pretty well, Mr. Ludeman said.
Contact Tad Vezner at:firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6050.