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Published: Friday, 2/29/2008

Plan to revive Swan Creek site 'dynamic'

BY KATE GIAMMARISE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Jeffrey Fleischman of Tetra Tech indicates areas of interest on an artist's rendering of the proposed condominium-townhouse project on property near the Farmers Market in downtown Toledo. Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said the project is dynamic, but realization is a long way off. Jeffrey Fleischman of Tetra Tech indicates areas of interest on an artist's rendering of the proposed condominium-townhouse project on property near the Farmers Market in downtown Toledo. Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said the project is dynamic, but realization is a long way off.
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A pedestrian-friendly walk along Swan Creek bustling with visitors and vitality?

Young professionals and families living in town homes, shopping and dining in the heart of downtown?

All within walking distance of offices and downtown attractions?

It's possible, Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said yesterday, discussing a proposal to revitalize the area along Swan Creek near downtown.

The city of Toledo will work with Pasadena, Calif.-based Tetra Tech, a planning and engineering firm with an office in Toledo, to look at the feasibility of developing the area between the Anthony Wayne Trail and the mouth of the creek, which flows into the Maumee River, Mr. Finkbeiner said.

Tetra Tech is part of the engineering team working on the Toledo Waterways Initiative, the city's $450 million program to upgrade sewage and wastewater treatment facilities.

The Swan Creek proposal will be introduced at a news conference today.

Mr. Finkbeiner characterized the idea as a "very, very dynamic and exciting project."

The 50 to 100 acres could include office space, homes, shops, and a waterfront promenade.

Key to the development would be the idea of a dense, mixed-use development, with residents living there contributing to pedestrian activity and vitality, said Gonzalo Echeverria of the architectural and planning firm Looney Ricks Kiss of Princeton, N.J.

The end result would be much like San Antonio's River Walk, Mr. Finkbeiner said.

Such a proposal would be years away from completion at best, however.

"We're a ways off from this project," said Todd Davies, the city's commissioner of economic development.

The first step would be environmental cleanup, said Jeffrey Fleischman, a senior asset strategist with Tetra Tech. Potential environmental problems could include soil contamination or possibly asbestos in some older buildings, said Joel Mazur, a senior environmental specialist with the city's Division of Environmental Services.

Mr. Fleischman said a time line is being developed, though he said the project is looking at a 10 to 15-year "development horizon."

As for funding?

Robert Reinbolt, the mayor's chief of staff, said any development would have to be driven by private funds, though Mr. Finkbeiner said the city could try to obtain state and federal grants to help with any environmental cleanup.

Mr. Fleischman also said developers have expressed some interest in the possible development.

The city owns some of the buildings in the area, including the Erie Street Market and a public utilities department building, but a number of other properties are privately owned.

Some are in use, though others appear to mainly be vacant or underused warehouses. Mr. Finkbeiner characterized many of them as "unused properties."

And with tough economic times on the horizon?

Mr. Finkbeiner said he doesn't see that as an obstacle to such a large-scale redevelopment project.

"As long as the state and federal governments see the importance of sustaining quality-of-living opportunity in the cities, brownfield cleanup money will be available to do what we need to do," he said.

As for the enormous amount of private investment needed to make such a project go forward, Mr. Finkbeiner said investment already has occurred in the city's downtown and Warehouse District, which is next to the Swan Creek area.

Other development projects under way in the city include the Marina District in East Toledo and the revitalization of the Southwyck area in South Toledo.

Contact Kate Giammarise at:

kgiammarise@theblade.com

or 419-724-6133.



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