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New deal awaits East Toledo Marina project

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Dillin

The Blade/Jeremy Wadsworth
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After several false starts, multiple financing plans, and more than one missed deadline, the Finkbeiner administration says it now has the best deal yet to jump- start the planned mix of private and public investment for a new Marina District in East Toledo.

"Absolutely. This is the best structure we have had yet and the thing that is not a part of this - it requires no additional money from the city, so the general obligation bonds we talked about before are no longer necessary," said Dave Amstutz, Toledo's manager of economic development.

Toledo City Council has scheduled review tomorrow of legislation authorizing Mayor Carty Finkbeiner to enter into a second amended development agreement with Dillin Riverfront Properties Inc. The business is run by developer Larry Dillin.

Under the current plan, Mr. Dillin would get 58 acres on the waterfront in exchange for $3.6 million.

But Councilman D. Michael Collins called the arrangement a "shell game" in which "money is washed."

Councilman George Sarantou, chairman of council's finance committee, said he had not seen the legislation and withheld comment. "My understanding is that Larry Dillin is coming up with the money for the project and this will allow us to continue in a positive direction," he said.

Mr. Dillin could not be reached for comment.

The history of the project is long.

Under the plan in effect, the city in early fall 2008 would have assisted the project by issuing approximately $3 million in assessment backed general obligation bonds.

Mr. Dillin, under the terms of the new amendment, still will be required to personally guarantee the repayment of a $3.5 million State Infrastructure Bank loan for public improvements.

Mr. Dillin would need to start erecting buildings by Dec. 31, 2010, to avoid losing the property back to the city.

The mayor's proposed agreement authorizes him to accept the $3.6 million for the sale of property and deposit the money into a capital improvement fund, which is to be used for "reinvestment into the public portion of the Marina District."

"No money actually changes hands," Mr. Collins said.

On May 29, Mayor Finkbeiner held a news conference at the Marina District to show the public a new road and boat docks.

He said that by the end of the year, it could have a sprawling waterfront park.

Mr. Dillin said at that time he had assembled a private investor group to provide the $3.6 million to buy the 58 acres of the 128-acre site and that construction could start on the waterfront park by July.

Mr. Dillin said he expected to buy the land by a June 1 deadline and that the city would use the $3.6 million to begin construction on a public park with completion sometime in 2010.

But the deadline passed with no check written to the city.

Mr. Amstutz said the missed deadline was not a deal-killer.

"If you are selling a house, as an example, and the buyer takes a little longer to get the loan approved, are you going kill the deal if it's a good deal?" he said. "You keep working at it to put it together."

The $11 million park is also to be funded by a $5 million grant from the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission.

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

According to previously announced plans, the park is to feature a refurbished boat dock area, an amphitheater, and a clock tower.

It is to have an urban sand beach, grassy areas leading down to the Maumee riverbank, viewing areas, and solar-powered lighting.

And there are to be concrete walkways extending the mile length of the Marina District project.

A marine terminal building at the downriver end of the site has already been completed.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.

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