The Marina District project in East Toledo can go forward without a master developer or the involvement of a major retailer, and will likely attract stores or restaurants before any residential development is established, members of Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's new development team told a City Council committee yesterday.
The three-hour presentation before the economic development committee followed a morning news conference at Toledo Edison's former Acme generating station. Mr. Finkbeiner used the news conference to trumpet progress in clearing and cleaning much of the 125-acre site that has been a subject of redevelopment talk since 1999.
Before both the media and the council committee, development team members said a visit last weekend to San Antonio's downtown Riverwalk and the surrounding neighborhood demonstrated the need for patience to get the Marina District built.
"These are long-range redevelopment plans," said Don Monroe, executive director of RiverEast Economic Revitalization Corp. and Mr. Finkbeiner's coordinator for the Marina District. San Antonio began building its Riverwalk project in 1968, he said, and the neighborhood continues to evolve.
"We need to rethink our impatience with this project," agreed Jim Mettler, director of economic development for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, which plans to build a marine passenger terminal in the Marina District. "We have turned our back to our waterfront for far too long, and I hope now we take our time and do it right."
During the news conference, a crew from Brandenburg Industrial Service Co. knocked down what remained of two old storage tanks on the Acme plant site. Mr. Finkbeiner said all remaining demolition provided for by $6 million in state grants will be completed within the coming weeks. Still to be funded is demolition of several buildings associated with the old power plant and asbestos removal from 16 boilers in the plant's main powerhouse, which is to remain for possible re-use.
Bill Burkett, senior project manager for cleanup contractor Hull & Associates, said the site cleanup done for the Marina District "is very similar to cleanup projects in other places in the country."
Mr. Finkbeiner promised that by year's end, city contractors will have built the project's 78-slip marina and an access road leading through the site, while the development team will identify a preferred location for an amphitheater the Finkbeiner administration now proposes as an alternative to building a new indoor sports arena as part of the development.
Toledo's riverfront revitalization is far ahead of similar proposals in Cleveland and Detroit, and the site's availability for development could coincide nicely with completion of the I-280 Veterans' Glass City Skyway, the mayor said. The $220 million bridge, which will tower over the Maumee River just downstream from the Marina District site, is scheduled for completion late next year.
Before the council committee, Jerry Jones, president and chief executive officer of Woodlands Consulting Group in Maumee, said he has lined up investors for an "ice house" - a multipurpose indoor recreation facility that would primarily house a hockey rink - for which the Marina District would be an ideal location. So far, $1 million has been secured toward the facility's $6 million estimated cost, Mr. Jones said.
Michael Drew Shaw, a Sylvania filmmaker and media producer, has also proposed a visitors' center for the marina district that would highlight the I-280 bridge project and local history. He has pledged to line up private investment for that facility.
Other presentations to the council committee explained how the development team expects housing to proceed at the site.
Councilman George Sarantou, an economic development committee member, said afterward that the report encouraged him about the Marina District's future. "Obviously, we've got the cleanup done, and now we really need to get going," Mr. Sarantou said. "My level of doubt has gone down substantially."