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Published: Thursday, 2/21/2008

Mayor, Dillin to make trip to meet with 1 of the Southwyck Mall owners

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Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and developer Larry Dillin are planning a trip to Kansas City next week to meet with one of the owners of the nearly vacant Southwyck Shopping Center in an attempt to move along redevelopment of the site.

Mr. Finkbeiner announced the trip Tuesday night while speaking to a group of people gathered at First Unitarian Church in the Old West End.

The mayor said the planned redevelopment of the once-popular mall would proceed if the city "could just get control of the property."

Todd Davies, Toledo's commissioner of development, declined to elaborate on the purpose of the meeting other than to say "it's just a meeting between the city and the owners of Southwyck."

Mr. Dillin said they are "trying to put the wraps on some issues for Southwyck," but he also declined to give specifics.

The mayor and Mr. Dillin will meet with Tom Morgan of Dreiseszun & Morgan, managing partner for the mall ownership group.

Mr. Morgan owns half the mall, not including the Dillard's store, along with his uncle, Sherman Dreiseszun, who died Dec. 2.

Dillard's Inc., of Little Rock owns the other half of the mall.

Dillard's, the last remaining anchor at the 35-year-old mall, left in November. The Dillard's store and its adjacent parking lot are owned by shopping-center operator M.G. "Buddy" Herring, Jr., president and chief executive of the M.G. Herring Group, Dallas.

Mr. Davies yesterday said the city had not executed a deal to buy the vacant Dillard's store and parking lot from M.G.

Herring for an agreed-upon $1.09 million.

He said the city would like to avoid making the purchase, if possible.

"The purpose of us buying it is to expedite the Southwyck redevelopment and, if that happens without us, it's better for us to stay out," Mr. Davies said.

In December, City Council approved a plan that dedicated up to $7.8 million in taxpayer money toward Mr. Dillin's effort to redevelop Southwyck.

The deal included the city buying the vacant Dillard's store and its parking lot from the M.G. Herring Group, then selling it to Mr. Dillin for the same price.

That was approved by a 10-1 vote, with Michael Ashford dissenting. Councilman Mike Craig did not attend the meeting.

The authority to purchase that property is contingent upon the city first receiving a purchase agreement from Mr. Dillin, which has not occurred.

"That is not in place," Mr. Dillin said. "There are business issues that have to be worked out among the parties."

According to the deal, after Mr. Dillin buys the property from the city and pays for closing costs from both sales, the city then would issue a zero-interest loan up to $1.5 million to itself through a brownfield revolving loan fund to pay for asbestos removal at the vacant department store.

Mr. Dillin would repay to the city 80 percent of the city's cleanup cost 30 days after the asbestos is removed.

After Mr. Dillin closes on his private financing, he is supposed to reimburse the remaining 20 percent to the city.

Mr. Dillin also asked for up to $1.2 million from the city's brownfield revolving loan fund to be used for remediation of the former Montgomery Ward building; up to $4 million for reconstruction of Southwyck Boulevard; improvements to Reynolds Road; waivers for all tap fees to tie in to city utilities, and assistance rezoning part of the property for high-density housing.

Mr. Dillin's redevelopment plan would eliminate much of the enclosed mall. In its place would be a mixed-use development of stores, offices, and residential much like Mr. Dillin's Levis Commons project in Perrysburg, complete with fountain, a pavilion, and a clock tower.

Construction would run from May, 2009, to May, 2010.

The Lucas County auditor has valued Southwyck mall at $13.95 million.

- Ignazio Messina



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