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Published: Tuesday, 5/17/2011

Mayor opposes selling Marina District to local union council

Bell: Group lacks business plan for east-side property

Mayor Mike Bell blames City Council for the withdrawal of a previous offer. Mayor Mike Bell blames City Council for the withdrawal of a previous offer.

Toledo Mayor Mike Bell said Monday he would not sign a proposed memorandum of understanding written by a local trade union group stating its desire to buy the east-side Marina District property.

“I will not sign it because they do not have a business plan,” he said.

John Schlagheck, Northwestern Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council executive secretary, e-mailed Mayor Bell and all of Toledo City Council a memorandum of understanding last week expressing interest in the property.

According to the “nonbinding document,” the building trades union group wants to buy all of the city’s “title and interest in the property commonly known as the Marina District” for $3,800,001 — a dollar more than the Chinese investors’ company, Dashing Pacific Group Ltd., offered for about 69 acres.

Dashing Pacific Group Ltd., controlled by investors Wu Kin Hung and Yuan Xiaohona, has paid the city $2.15 million for The Docks restaurant complex and did get Mr. Bell to sign a memorandum of understanding regarding the Marina District. The two investors had met Mr. Bell during his trip to China last year.

The city announced on April 8 that a deal was reached with Dashing Pacific Group to sell the vacant Marina District property, with a “conditional repurchase option” five years after the sale if the property had not been developed. The mayor blamed the firm’s decision to withdraw its offer on proposed restrictions that Toledo City Council wanted to impose on the sale during a contentious hearing last month.

Some councilmen were backing a deed restriction to require that union contractors do the construction work, and Councilman D. Michael Collins suggested a requirement that the city be able to buy back the property for $2 million if at least 51 percent of the development had not been completed within two years.

Although Dashing Pacific Group withdrew its offer, it is still interested in participating in talks with the city, Mr. Bell said.

“We took a company that was not only prepared to spend $3.8 million, but also had a $200 million business plan to be able to do development over there, so why would I sign a MOU with someone who just wants to pay $3.8 million for the land and has no business plan and do nothing close to what we are going to do?” Mr. Bell said. “I think it would be disingenuous at best to agree to something that would lock up the land and not allow for anything positive to occur, and that puts the city in an extremely awkward position because at that point we have no say on something that is sitting right in front of us that needs to be developed.”

The total Marina District property is about 125 acres of former industrial land between Front Street and the Maumee River.

The memorandum of understanding sent to Mr. Bell from the union group last week already had Mr. Schlagheck’s signature. Mr. Schlagheck could not be reached for comment Monday.

Another potential offer for $7.5 million came from the “Toledo Community Investment Corporation.” Thomas Sheehan, head of Sheehan Financial Advisors LLC, 8315 Hidden Forest Drive in Springfield Township, made the potential offer in a May 3 letter to the mayor.

A “letter of interest” from Mr. Sheehan states the Toledo Community Investment Corporation wants to buy 128 acres at the Marina District for $7.5 million — which includes the corporation assuming the city’s obligation of paying back the approximately $5 million balance from bonds issued several years ago to buy and demolish the former Toledo Sports Arena, which once stood on the Marina District property. City Law Director Adam Loukx said, however, that it would be impossible to simply transfer that bonded debt.

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

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