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Published: Tuesday, 7/1/2008

Finkbeiner wants quick Southwyck demolition

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
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Less than a day after the Southwyck Shopping Center closed its doors for good, Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner yesterday said he hoped to see demolition of the complex begin before the end of 2008 so work eventually could begin to redevelop the property.

"The mall in recent years had become a mere shadow of what it was," Mr. Finkbeiner said.

The mayor is optimistic developer Larry Dillin, who is also the city's developer for the Marina District in East Toledo, will be able to someday create an open-air, village-like development - similar to Levis Commons in Perrysburg.

"The opportunity to make money at this location clearly exists," Mr. Finkbeiner said.

The mall's shutdown, meanwhile, has prompted the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority to discontinue park-and-ride bus service there.

As of this morning, the No. 31X Southwyck Express will serve only the Southland Shopping Center at Byrne Road and Glendale Avenue, and has been renamed the Southland Express.

Mr. Dillin acknowledged he doesn't have control of the property, but said he would continue negotiations to buy the mall.

"None of us is happy to see the mall close. However, this is the beginning of the beginning," Mr. Dillin said.

His plan includes razing much of the mall to build an open-air development of stores, offices, and housing.

Yesterday, Mr. Dillin said he would like to keep the carousel and existing indoor amphitheater as part of any new development. "Other than that, all the physical buildings out here - gone," he said.

The mall, 2040 South Reynolds Rd. in South Toledo, was shut down after nearly 36 years. Just eight stores and the carousel remained last month when yesterday's closing was announced.

Ownership is divided among three entities. The managing partner is Tom Morgan, of MD Management in Kansas City, a firm formerly known as Dreiseszun & Morgan. His uncle, Sherman Dreiseszun, who died in December, was an original operator of the mall.

Various trusts of the Morgan and Dreiseszun families now own about half of Southwyck through a firm called S-S-C Co.

The rest of the mall is owned by Dillard's Inc., of Little Rock, with the exception of the former Dillard's store, which is owned by the M.G. Herring Group, of Dallas.

Mr. Finkbeiner said the city would do what it could to help Mr. Dillin acquire the property.

Toledo has spent $1.1 million this year for Victorian-style lighting, brick medians, landscaping, and roadway improvements along Reynolds. The city this year also created a facade program for the Reynolds Road corridor to help businesses make exterior improvements and update signs.

Mr. Finkbeiner said the city would invest an additional $1.23 million of federal money in improvements along Reynolds between the Ohio Turnpike and Swan Creek.

James Gee, TARTA's general manager, said he had no handy count for how many commuters will be affected by the cancellation of express-bus service from Southwyck, but ridership there has "generally been declining" as the mall itself withered.

The bus shelter at the park-and-ride area on the mall property's south side will be removed, Mr. Gee said.

Other bus routes serving the Southwyck area will not be affected, and they will continue to stop at shelters on the opposite side of Southwyck Boulevard from the mall.

Besides the Southland Shopping Center service, TARTA's next-closest park-and-ride alternative for downtown Toledo commuters is the No. 44X bus from St. Luke's Hospital.

Staff writer David Patch contributed to this report.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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