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Published: 8/29/2006

Merchant drawn to downtown like moth to a candle

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Beth Onofrey checks the stock in the Swan Creek Candle store in downtown's Warehouse District. Beth Onofrey checks the stock in the Swan Creek Candle store in downtown's Warehouse District.
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Store employee Meghan McCarthy fills bins with scented candles. Store employee Meghan McCarthy fills bins with scented candles.
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Enlightened by the success of her downtown candle store, Ann Albright has decided that Toledo's Warehouse District is the place to be.

The owner of Swan Creek Candle Co. said she is in the beginning stages of a plan to move more of her Swanton-based business, and eventually her home, to a building at South Superior and Lafayette streets in Toledo.

Ms. Albright said she fell in love with downtown and believes in the potential it holds. She is pledging a multi-phase project that includes "green roof" technology - where plants are used to help reduce rain runoff and heat loss - and the construction of residential lofts.

"Our factory is located in Swanton and we are bursting at the seams," Ms. Albright said. "We decided to go ahead and open a distribution center just for our stores. The building was available and downtown Toledo was central."

Ms. Albright, who founded the successful candle company nearly 30 years ago, has bought the historic building at 114 South Superior St. with intentions of turning it in to a distribution hub for her six retail stores and Internet outlet.

In addition to commercial and office space, Ms. Albright said she has plans to build residential lofts - one in which she will make her own home - that would each have rooftop decks.

The former home of a heating company, the building has been vacant for several years. Ms. Albright bought seven plots on the corner, including one that extends through to Huron Street, for a total of $500,000.

To accomplish her goals, Ms. Albright must appear before the Toledo City Plan Commission for a zoning change. Currently zoned for use as light industrial, the 30,000-square-feet of space must be rezoned downtown commercial.

Stephen Herwat, director of the Toledo-Lucas County plan commissions, said city staff reviewed the request and will recommend the zoning be changed. He said the proposal is consistent with the city's 2020 plan and its downtown master plan.

"The mixed-use nature of that particular development is exactly what we anticipated for the Warehouse District," Mr. Herwat said. "It's a good reuse for the building."

The investment is among several that have turned around an area of Toledo once plagued with empty warehouses but which now includes Fifth Third Field, restaurants and more.

Kathy Steingraber, executive director of the Toledo Warehouse District Association, applauded Ms. Albright's proposal, saying that it fit perfectly into the plan for the area.

"These are very creative, hard-working folks and that's what it's going to take - people who want to work, who want to live near where they work," she said.

Toledo Councilman Michael Ashford echoed support for the project.

"This is just a continuation of good things happening around the Warehouse District and in the downtown," he said.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-724-6076.



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