Toledo City Council will decide today whether to award $50,000 from a small-business assistance fund to help complete work on The Shoppes on Lagrinka, a strip of storefronts that recalls better days on Lagrange Street.
One possible tenant, Sue Jurrus, said the style of the "shoppes" - traditional street-front businesses opening onto the sidewalk - is what modern retailing is trying to duplicate with newer centers, such as Levis Commons and Fallen Timbers.
"The buildings are beautiful. Having an old-fashioned storefront is awesome," Ms. Jurrus said.
She's planning to move her "personal gardening" business from her home on nearby Kosciusko Street into one of the six storefronts in the 2800 block of Lagrange. Sue's Etcetera! specializes in tending clients' gardens with weeding, pruning, mulching, and other services.
On council's agenda for a likely vote today is a proposal to reallocate $50,000 from the Small Business Initiative Program.
Developed by Lagrange Management Corp., a subsidiary of the Lagrange and NorthRiver development corporations, the shops attracted $476,000 in bank financing and $339,500 in grants, including the $50,000 SBA grant.
Local Initiatives Support Corp. loaned Lagrange $200,000 to buy the buildings.
Lagrinka, the once predominately Polish-speaking North Toledo neighborhood, took its name from the area's main traffic artery, Lagrange Street.
Terry Glazer, chief executive officer of United North, said the $50,000 was planned from the beginning. The building renovations are largely complete and will be ready for occupancy by January. Mr. Glazer said two potential tenants meet with the ownership board today.
The six storefronts - a combination of eight original addresses that were purchased for the redevelopment project by LMC - can be expanded to seven with an upstairs business in the corner "turret"-style building, Mr. Glazer said.
He said the project is one of the largest of its kind.
"We're trying to keep the historic nature intact, but still keeping the convenience of off-street parking," Mr. Glazer said.
The project will be followed closely by city officials looking for successful formulas in breaking the cycle of business and residential flight from older neighborhoods.
A similar project is St. Clair Village in the Warehouse District, a $2.8 million restoration of a strip of older commercial buildings that was completed four years ago.
Kathy Steingraber, executive director of the Toledo Warehouse District Association, said the project was fully leased in about eight months.
"That's the ideal type of rehabilitation for older neighborhoods. You feel safe walking down a street where the buildings come right to the sidewalk and storefronts are lit up," she said.
Todd Davies, the city's commissioner of development, said the city has stopped participating in the SBA Initiative program, which started in 2002 under former Mayor Jack Ford.
Initially, the city committed $2 million to a four-year program that was supposed to trigger matching investment from the private sector.
Mr. Davies said about $63,000 will remain in the SBA Initiative account, and likely will be channeled into a program with the same intent as the SBA program - to help small-business start-ups.
He said the Lagrinka project is funded mostly with loans, so Lagrange is under pressure to rent out the storefronts.
"That's the sort of thing we need to do to uplift these neighborhoods," Mr. Davies said.
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