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Published: Tuesday, 5/13/2008

Southwyck gets nod to remain open

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Walkers sometimes outnumber shoppers in the mostly vacant Southwyck Shopping Center. Walkers sometimes outnumber shoppers in the mostly vacant Southwyck Shopping Center.
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The troubled Southwyck Shopping Center - home to just eight stores and favored more by walkers than shoppers - will remain open after its management heeded warnings to contain asbestos contamination and fix other problems.

But Toledo officials late yesterday said air monitoring test results could change that situation. They set a June 2 deadline for the mall's owners to address fire-safety requirements.

City inspectors on Thursday discovered black mold and said airborne asbestos could have escaped from the shuttered Montgomery Ward store into the public areas.

The city threatened to shut down the South Reynolds Road facility in 72 hours unless the mold was cleaned up and the asbestos was sealed off.

The mall's management countered on Friday with a third-party inspector's report that said there was no "visible evidence" of mold growth or airborne asbestos.

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said fire, environmental services, and the building inspectors were back at the mall yesterday.

Chris Zervos, the city's commissioner of building inspection, said issues yet to be addressed include the asbestos situation.

"The city awaits air monitoring testing results that were conducted last Friday by OSHA [Ohio Safety and Health Administration]," Mr. Zervos said in his report. "The outcome of these test results could further affect the ongoing operation of Southwyck mall."

Mr. Zervos also said owners of the South Toledo mall have until June 2 to address inadequate fire-suppression systems in the former Montgomery Ward and the former Dillard's stores.

Kenneth C. Baker, an attorney with Eastman & Smith Ltd., which represents the mall, said in a statement yesterday that the mall was safe.

"Work to address the alleged violations over the weekend consisted of routine cleaning and maintenance, replacement of some ceiling tiles, completion of some plumbing repairs in the women's restroom, and a further strengthening of the barricade between the shopping center and the Montgomery Ward store," the statement said.

Workmen inside the mall on Sunday nailed barricades to the wall separating Montgomery Ward and the concourse.

Mr. Baker's statement also said: "While no evidence was presented regarding any asbestos dust escaping from the sealed-off Montgomery Ward store, and we have no reason to believe this has occurred, extra precautions were taken by providing additional strengthening of the barricade between the store and the mall to help ease the city's concerns."

Mayor Finkbeiner yesterday pointed out that a statement from the law firm last week said, "There is no visible evidence of suspect mold growth on the interior, exposed surfaces of the skylights of the mall," but it failed to address the suspected presence of mold on surfaces elsewhere in the mall.

"Considering that it was stated that there was no evidence of the contamination, or the mold, of course they fined-tuned that," he said. "They spoke only to the open, public areas."

The mayor again said the inspections and the threat to close the mall would not affect developer Larry Dillin's effort to purchase property at Southwyck.

Mr. Dillin's previously announced plan would eliminate much of the mall. In its place would be a mixed-use development of stores, offices, and residential units.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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