The retail developer, who is best known for the successful Town Center at Levis Commons project in Perrysburg, has reached agreement with the owners of the Southwyck Shopping Center to redevelop the struggling 33-year-old property in southwest Toledo.
"For us, Southwyck is a chance to do a Levis Commons-type project within the boundaries of Toledo," Mr. Dillin said in an interview. "It won't be exactly the same, but it will have a lot of the same elements. It will be pedestrian-oriented, open air, and have a strong streetscape."
An announcement was scheduled for 10 a.m. today at city hall.
It is good news for neighborhood residents, who have worried that the steady decline of the once-booming retail center would drag down the surrounding middle-income area.
The mall owner's decision to cooperate in redevelopment removes a significant impediment to the restoration of the 57-acre site: a nearly $23 million asking price that real estate experts said was too high to make renovation feasible.
Officials of Dreiseszun & Morgan of Kansas City, managing partner for the mall ownership group, were unavailable to discuss the development. Sherman Dreiseszun declined comment. His nephew and business partner, Tom Morgan, did not respond to a telephone message.
Despite the revelation, it will likely be a year or longer before changes are made. And the project along Reynolds Road north of Heatherdowns Boulevard will have to pass a number of hurdles.
First, Dillin Cos. of Perrysburg will gauge interest of prospective tenants and verify that the project can be profitable.
"No one will invest in a bad plan," Mr. Dillin said. "It has to make economic sense."
Assuming those efforts are successful, Mr. Dillin will then have to attract financing. With the success of Levis Commons, the developer said, he has had discussions with private investors and banks interested in future ventures. Southwyck would likely qualify, he said.
Either way, however, he said the project will require taxpayer assistance. "We can't do it without it," Mr. Dillin said.
"We'll do what is reasonable and what is right," said Mayor Jack Ford, who is to participate in today's announcement. He wouldn't state how much money might be involved, but said assistance likely would involve road and infrastructure improvements. The mayor made a similar promise to an earlier investment group.
Mr. Dillin had produced quality projects, the mayor said, adding that redevelopment of Southwyck is overdue.
"It's now a big declining box," he said. "I can remember when Southwyck was a hip place to go to. Everyday it is in decline, it hammers the psyche of south Toledo."
The development could have enormous political consequences, because Mr. Ford, who is locked in a race for re-election, has up until now come up empty in attempts to promote redevelopment of the property.
Mr. Dillin credited Mr. Ford's economic development department with helping introduce him to Mr. Morgan, with whom most negotiations have taken place.
At one point, Mr. Ford said in an interview yesterday, he told the mall's owners he might try to use the city's powers of eminent domain to take control of the property.
It is unclear whether Dillard's department store, the only remaining anchor tenant in the 850,000 square foot retail center, will stay after it opens in the Shops at Fallen Timbers. Fallen Timbers is a 1 million-square-foot lifestyle center that combines retail, office, and residential properties underway in nearby Maumee by giant General Growth Properties of Chicago.
The Southwyck project can proceed with or without Dillard's, Mr. Dillin said.
Planning for Southwyck's redevelopment began only last week, so Mr. Dillin said it is unclear how the renovated property will look.
One thing is certain: It is unlikely to remain an enclosed mall.
Various options are being considered including complete and partial demolition.
If the building is kept, the roof will likely be removed from the mall's central court to make it an open-air amphitheater.
As at Levis Commons, shops will likely have outside entrances in keeping with modern trends in retail architecture.
Additionally, under any scenario, the project will have a higher profile with shops extended to the edge of heavily traveled Reynolds Road, Mr. Dillin said.
Also possible is high density housing like the row houses planned for the Levis Commons projects. Offices are also being considered.
The developer was unable to say when cost and financing estimates will be finalized or when construction might begin.
There are no immediate plans for changes in mall ownership or management.
Dave Long, a commercial real estate agent with CB Richard Ellis/Reichle Klein, said that the project appears to be at a very early stage.
He noted that Southwyck will face competition for tenants from the Shops at Fallen Timbers, where site excavation and grading work began last week. While Mr. Dillin has shown at Levis Commons that he can attract high-quality tenants, he will be up against the nation's second-largest mall operator in General Growth.
"It will be interesting to see if he is successful the second time around," Mr. Long said.
Phil Kajca, a Southwyck tenant, welcomed the development.
"I'm all for it," said the owner of J. Foster Jewelers. "Southwyck is still a viable property. My store there still does well. The south end needs it."
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