City inspectors found black mold at Southwyck Shopping Center and asbestos contamination in the former Montgomery Ward building, which could be transferred to mall common areas by maintenance workers, Tim Murphy, Toledo's commissioner of environmental services, said yesterday.
"We did a visual inspection and what we found in Montgomery Ward, the roof over time has leaked a lot and that has caused the ceiling to fall in," Mr. Murphy said. "In the ceiling, they have fire-proofing containing asbestos."
The inspections, which included fire and safety, were conducted Friday, he said.
"You don't have shoppers going through [Mont-gomery Ward], but what's happening is the mall operation still goes in there and they sweep up some of this stuff, and some of the inspectors are concerned," Mr. Murphy said.
He said asbestos could spread to the public areas still in use, but had no evidence to support that.
"We do not have any sampling showing that right now," Mr. Murphy said.
The black mold was observed on the ceiling in the main concourse of the nearly vacant shopping mall.
Robert Reinbolt, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's chief of staff, said the owners of the mall and the former Montgomery Ward building will be ordered to address the issues within 30 days.
About six stores are operating at the shopping center, 2040 South Reynolds Rd.
Mayor Finkbeiner in February said planned redevelopment of the once-popular mall would proceed if the city "could just get control of the property."
Developer Larry Dillin yesterday said he is continuing his efforts to buy the South Toledo mall and will market the project at a shopping center convention that begins later this month in Las Vegas.
"There is a dialogue going on between the current owners to resolve what happens with the property," Mr. Dillin said. "I do not have property control, but I am hopeful we will have a good convention."
The mall's ownership is complicated.
Tom Morgan of Dreiseszun & Morgan, managing partner for the mall ownership group, owns half the mall, not including the closed 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 and the former Montgomery Ward anchor building.
Dillard's was the remaining anchor at the 35-year-old mall. 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.
- Ignazio Messina