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Published: Tuesday, 6/3/2008

Southwyck air is OK; some sprinklers fixed

BLADE STAFF

Toledo's environmental services division still has concerns about asbestos contamination at the soon-to-close Southwyck Shopping Center, but air samplings showed no sign of the toxin in the mall's main areas or the former Montgomery Ward store, the city reported yesterday.

The manager of the nearly empty mall in South Toledo complied with orders to fix by yesterday fire sprinklers in the former Dillard's store and the mall's common areas, but the work was not completed in the Montgomery Ward building.

"It's probably a moot point," Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said yesterday. "There are only a few shops left, and the mall will be closed by the end of the month."

Officials announced last month that the nearly 36-year-old mall at 2040 South Reynolds Rd. would close June 30.

Kenneth C. Baker, an attorney with Eastman & Smith Ltd., which represents the mall, did not return phone calls seeking comment yesterday.

The city of Toledo threatened to shut the mall because of suspected asbestos contamination found by inspectors in the Montgomery Ward building, inadequate fire sprinklers, and other problems.

Inspectors also said they discovered black mold and surmised that airborne asbestos could have escaped from the shuttered Montgomery Ward into public areas.

Chris Zervos, the city's commissioner of building inspection, in a report yesterday, said the city would monitor the conditions until the stores close.

The five remaining stores are Deb's, World Nail, Abba Airbrush, GNC, and The Box Store.

"After June 30, 2008, when the buildings are vacated, the fire department will no longer have concern with life safety of mall patrons, but will have noncompliance issues on the fire system in the Montgomery Ward store," Mr. Zervos said. "If no further progress is made, court action and fines will be initiated."

Councilman D. Michael Collins, whose council district includes the mall, said the city must find a way to secure the property after the building has closed.

He said it could attract an unsavory element, especially at night, when drug deals and other crime could occur in the parking lot.

Developer Larry Dillin, the creator of Levis Commons in Perrysburg and the city's lead person for the proposed Marina District in East Toledo, has plans to buy and redevelop the shopping mall site.

However, neither he nor the city has been able to acquire any piece of the property, which has multiple owners.

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

- Ignazio Messina



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