Executives with a California company considering a massive redevelopment of the downtown area near Swan Creek got their first up-close look at the waterway yesterday.
"It's more beautiful than I thought, said Jeff Fleischman, a senior asset strategist for Tetra Tech Inc., of Pasadena, Calif.
"There was a lot of wildlife - more than I expected," Mr. Fleischman said. "It would be nice to turn the area around and have the buildings face the creek instead of back up to it."
The California firm announced in April its intent to develop the area into a $300 million mixed-use riverwalk development. Part of the deal includes purchasing 25 parcels of city-owned property, including the Erie Street Market building for $4.2 million.
Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, who donned shorts, a T-shirt, and sunglasses for the occasion, arranged yesterday's 90-minute pontoon boat tour down the creek. Scout, the mayor's faithful yellow Labrador retriever, also was along for the tour.
Mr. Finkbeiner leaned against the boat's forward railing and pointed out various buildings to the four Tetra Tech employees on board.
"This will be a way to transform a first-class piece of property," Mr. Finkbeiner said under a light rain.
The slow-moving boat passed between heavy foliage on both banks and the occasional junk appliances, tires, cinder block, or other debris dumped in the creek.
The Tetra Tech purchase agreement lets the company evaluate the property and determine if development is feasible. It must pay the city a deposit of $25,000 if closing has not occurred by Nov. 1, and $50,000 more if closing has not occurred by Dec. 31.
Mayor Finkbeiner said he was "60 percent sure" the firm would move forward with plans for the development.
Mr. Fleischman said he could not place a number on the project's likelihood.
"We like what we see and we are doing our due diligence," he said.
The Tetra Tech officials took close notice and photographed several sewage overflow points, where the city's antiquated sewer system allows untreated waste to pollute the creek during heavy rain.
Joel Mazur, senior environmental specialist for the city, said the $450 million Toledo Waterways Initiative, an overhaul and expansion of the city's sewage system, aims to eliminate such overflows by 2015.
John Dolynchuk, senior environmental scientist for the company, said they had not yet begun soil sampling of the land.
"We are just taking a look as part of our due diligence," Mr. Dolynchuk said about yesterday's tour.