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Published: Saturday, 5/30/2009

Toledo Marina District financing package completed

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The long-awaited Toledo Marina District project has a road, a boat dock, and a dockmaster. By the end of the year, it could have a sprawling waterfront park.

Developer Larry Dillin said Friday he has assembled a private investor group that will provide $3.6 million to buy 58 acres of the 128-acre site in East Toledo, and that construction could start on the waterfront park by July.

At a press conference following a tour of the Marina District site hosted by Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, Mr. Dillin said he expects to buy the land by a Monday deadline, and the city of Toledo will use the $3.6 million to begin construction on the park with completion sometime in 2010.

The $11 million park is to 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, and the $3.6 million from the land purchase by

Mr. Dillin.

Toledo already has spent $1.84 million for water and sewer infrastructure in the Marina District.

According to previously announced plans, the park will feature a refurbished boat dock area, an amphitheater, a clock tower, an urban sand beach, grassy areas leading down to the Maumee riverbank, viewing areas, solar-powered lighting, and concrete walkways extending the mile-length of the Marina District project.

"I promise you by the end of this year or the beginning of next year when all the landscaping can go in, Toledo is going to have the finest stretch of waterfront park anywhere in the central United States," Mr. Dillin said.

A timetable for the rest of the Marina District, which is to have apartments, restaurants, and nightclubs along the Maumee River, is less certain. "We will go vertical when the time is right," Mr. Dillin said, referring to construction of privately financed residential or commercial buildings.

Mr. Finkbeiner, who was enthusiastic about the current progress of the 9-year-old Marina District project and the long-awaited purchase of acreage by Mr. Dillin, was more optimistic about further development.

The mayor said he believes the first private construction project, either residential or commercial, could occur late this year. "Definitely by 2010," he added.

Although various aspects of the Marina District already have been completed, including a Marine terminal building at the downriver end of the site, Mr. Finkbeiner used yesterday's tour to officially take note of a key phase in the project's progress.

City engineers took the cover off a street sign on Main Street, near the site of the now-demolished Toledo Sports Arena, which officially designated the one-mile roadway that runs the length of the project as "Riverside Drive."

Mr. Finkbeiner said the $5 million road, paid for by state grants and loans, signified that the site is now cleared of debris, graded, cleaned of pollutants, and ready for development. "This is not an insignificant announcement," the mayor said.

Later, Mr. Finkbeiner and dozens of officials connected to the project met in front of the new $6.3 million Skyway Marina - which features 77 docks, fuel pumps, showers, and a convenience store - where the mayor introduced the marina's new dockmaster, Jim Ragan, formerly the dockmaster for the city's Promenade Park docks.

This summer, the marina will offer inexpensive rates, $10 for the day, in an attempt to get boaters who may be looking to cut costs to visit Toledo. Eventually, Mr. Finkbeiner said, the marina will play a prominent role in the site as restaurants, bars, and apartments are developed.

But the mayor cautioned that Toledoans must be patient because such development will take many years. "It will take time, but we're getting there," he said.

Mr. Dillin, who needed nearly five years to develop Levis Commons in Perrysburg and has been working three years to assemble his private equity group, which is made up primarily of wealthy individuals from the West Coast, said it has taken nearly 10 years to get the Marina District project to its current state.

"It seems like we're celebrating all the hard work we've done up until now. But the easy part was to get the ground ready," he said.

"Now we're ready to go vertical and we only have once chance to do this right."

Contact Jon Chavez at:

jchavez@theblade.com

or 419-724-6128.



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