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Published: Saturday, 8/23/2008

Dillin tries to ease Toledo council's Marina fears

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Developer Larry Dillin did his best yesterday to quell the restrained trepidation among Toledo councilmen over his newly proposed financing plan for the $20 million public portion of the Marina District on the city's east side.

'Certainly, I prefer not to be here this is not fun,' Mr. Dillin told the six councilmen who attended yesterday's committee-of-the-whole hearing on his new plan.

'This project has been out there a long time, too long,' he said.

'I am anxious to move forward. I am tired of talking about it.'

In a 'very-worst-case scenario' under the new plan in which Mr. Dillin were to default on loan payments he's promised to make the city would repossess property sold to Mr. Dillin and could have to assume responsibility to repay a $3.5 million loan from the State Infrastructure Bank, said Adam Loukx, acting city law director.

Mr. Dillin told the council committee that he's offering a personal guarantee to repay loans for the Marina District which differs from the approved plan that requires he back up the project financing with a letter of credit from a bank.

Mr. Dillin said he was unable to secure that letter because lending institutions have become more conservative.

Councilmen Mark Sobczak, Joe McNamara, Betty Shultz, D. Michael Collins, George Sarantou, and Frank Szollosi attended the meeting.

Despite the financing problems, the Finkbeiner administration is still flush with promises about the waterfront site.

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner wants to see two ugly-duckling locations the Marina District and the area near Swan Creek downtown both of which are fraught with environmental hazards and contaminants, redeveloped into open-air, mixed-use residential and commercial districts.

Under the new plan, if approved by council Tuesday night, $6.86 million would be assembled for construction of a proposed Riverside Drive, extending for nearly a mile along the Maumee River north from Main Street.

The cash would come from a $1.5 million grant from the Ohio Department of Development, a $3.5 million loan from the State Infrastructure Bank to be repaid by Mr. Dillin, a $660,000 grant, and $1.2 million paid by Mr. Dillin for 14.66 acres in the southwest quadrant of the Marina District.

Under the current plan, Mr. Dillin would have bought 58 acres for $3.6 million. But under the new plan, he would have the exclusive option to purchase the remaining 43.34 acres for $2.4 million.

Mr. Dillin said construction of the waterfront park would begin only after securing written commitments to fund development of his planned mixed residential and commercial buildings.

The total private investment is estimated at about $320 million.

The $11.3 million for the park, which is to have fountains, a clock tower, performance space, and boat docks, will be paid for with $5 million from the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission, $2.5 million in 20-year general obligation bonds from the city paid by special assessments on Mr. Dillin's property, the $2.4 million from the land purchase by Mr. Dillin, and an additional $1.4 million from Mr. Dillin.

The city already has spent $1.84 million for water and sewer infrastructure at the Marina District, which brings the grand total to $20 million.

Even with the personal guarantee, some councilmen admitted concern.

Mrs. Shultz, who on June 13 said she would 'vote for the devil in cloven hooves if it would bring jobs to Toledo' when pledging support for a previous Marina District financing strategy, said she was worried about the city's debt limit and obligations under the new plan.

But Mr. Sarantou said the new plan is actually less risky for the city.

'It would appear from this there is less risk to the city because of the level of general obligation bonds,' he said.

'The city would not pursue [general obligation] bonds unless all is ready for phase two.'

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.



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