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Published: Saturday, 3/26/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Investors aim to bring life back to Docks

Partner unveils development plans during a visit to Toledo

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Yuan Xiaohona, of Dashing Pacific Group, speaks about the firm's investment in the Docks. Ms. Yuan and her investment partner, Wu Kin Hung, want to buy the Marina District and develop it into a mix of residential and commercial buildings. Yuan Xiaohona, of Dashing Pacific Group, speaks about the firm's investment in the Docks. Ms. Yuan and her investment partner, Wu Kin Hung, want to buy the Marina District and develop it into a mix of residential and commercial buildings.
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Yuan Xiaohona admits she had never heard of Toledo until late last year.

Now, she points down at the ground and says, "10 years from now, this is where I want to be."

The reason: she's fallen in love with the city — so much so that she and investment partner Wu Kin Hung want to invest millions of dollars into buying and building up the city's east side waterfront property, which is considered critical to downtown's revitalization.

Ms. Yuan is near the end of a week-long visit to Toledo to discuss improvements to the Docks restaurant complex and possibly purchasing the city-owned Marina District property for a future development.

Ms. Yuan said she and Mr. Wu still want to buy the Marina District and develop it into a mix of residential and commercial buildings.

"There are still a lot of variables as to some specific considerations," she said through a translator. "We are still trying to collect more information."

The city of Toledo last week closed a $2.15 million deal to sell The Docks restaurant and entertainment complex to Dashing Pacific Group, a United States corporation created by the two Chinese investors. Soon after the sale, new tenants were OK'd to serve American cuisine in two of the vacant restaurants.

"We didn't know anything about Toledo prior to the delegation headed by Mayor [Mike] Bell in September last year," Ms. Yuan told The Blade Thursday. "Mayor Bell is quite a charismatic man and a very capable mayor. With his invitation, we facilitated a trip to Toledo a month later and started to realize this is a very beautiful city and ... we fell in love with the city, and we feel with a capable mayor and the connection we established through the trip and our passion for this beautiful city, we decided to do business with the city."

Dashing Pacific signed a memorandum of understanding with the city earlier this year expressing its intent to buy and develop part of the once-polluted Marina District into a mixed-use commercial and residential development. The district sits across Main Street from The Docks on the east side of the Maumee River.

Mr. Wu intended to also be in Toledo this week but his passport was close to expiring, and he could not travel to the United States, said Scott Prephan, the Perrysburg-based developer who brokered the deal between Toledo and Dashing Pacific Group.

Mr. Wu's son, Jimmy Wu, who lives in New York, was also part of the delegation in Toledo this week. The younger Mr. Wu's fiancée and Ms. Yuan's daughter, Sunny Yuan, were also in Toledo.

"This is like a family thing. It is more the fact that they fell in love with the city and there is a lot of business potential. … They want to be part of the community," said Zhixin "Simon" Guo, a deal broker between Chinese and American businessmen who translated for Ms. Yuan.

Ms. Yuan and Ms. Wu plan to dramatically increase lighting at the The Docks.

"The Docks should be the integral part of this whole thing. ... We are intending to make the Docks portion central," Ms. Yuan said.

Her business background includes residential and commercial development, mostly in Shenzhen, a city of nearly 9 million people near Hong Kong.

"There are too many big cities in China. We don't like big cities anymore," she quipped.

Some in Toledo, including U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) and Councilman Lindsay Webb, said publicly that they suspected the funding used to buy The Docks could have some degree of Chinese state-sponsored investment.

Ms. Yuan dispelled that and said the money used to purchase The Docks came from totally private sources.

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



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