The row of buildings in the 2800 block of Lagrange Street, in the heart of the Polish International Village, doesn't look like much - with peeling paint, tattered interiors, and fading "For Lease" signs in the windows.
Yesterday, city of Toledo and Lucas County officials crowded into one of the empty buildings and joined representatives of Lagrange Development Corp. in announcing a $1.3 million renovation of four turn-of-the-century buildings that corporation officials hope will become a destination point.
The project, called The Shoppes on Lagrinka, will take six months to complete and will be ready for occupancy by the fall, said Terry Glazer, president of the corporation.
Mr. Glazer said he has received roughly 60 calls about the buildings, but business owners wanted to see renovation work in progress before committing. That work begins this week.
"It was tough for businesses to commit when we didn't know when renovations were going to start. Now they'll be able to see the progress. I think we're going to have a lot of interest," he said.
Mr. Glazer said Lagrange Development cobbled together nine funding sources and 13 funding programs in raising the money needed to renovate the structures.
The city of Toledo, for example, contributed nearly $300,000 in grants for the project. The Toledo office of the Local Initiatives Support Corp. loaned Lagrange $200,000 to buy the buildings. KeyBank also provided a $376,000 loan and other help.
Mayor Carty Finkbeiner praised Lagrange for its determination to make the project a reality and credited the neighborhood for its cleanliness.
"Frankly and truthfully, I don't think I've seen the infrastructure cleaner at any point of time," Mr. Finkbeiner said during a news conference yesterday afternoon.
"Usually at the end of winter, you have everyone's leftovers from Christmas, Thanksgiving, and so forth. On the streets, in the alleys, and byways, it was very clean. Let's keep that up."
Tina Skeldon Wozniak, the president of the county commissioners, said Lagrange Development's resolve to see the project through will make it viable in the long run.
"This was an aggressive and progressive project," Ms. Wozniak said. "You don't get anything done in this town if you're not aggressive and say this must be done and it's right for the community, and progressive, meaning what do we want to look at in the next 10 years. That's why this project is successful."
Mr. Glazer said the project, because of its location, will be highly visible and, when done, will give part of Lagrange a new look.
"It will be a transformation of almost an entire block in the business district, which should have a multiplier effect on the neighborhood," Mr. Glazer said.
"It will not only have an effect on the business district, but it will have a positive effect on the residents as far as providing goods and services."
Mr. Glazer said he believes continued development in the business district - from the new library at Lagrange and Manhattan Boulevard to plans for a multimillion dollar renovation of the Zablocki Senior Center - will increase interest in the North Toledo area.
"We have a very unique business district," Mr. Glazer said. "We are one of the few remaining business districts that have that character where the buildings come right up to the property line, and I think that's a valuable asset.
"I think it's a wonderful opportunity to get into this on the ground floor because I think the business district is about to take off," he said.
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