Sunday, Apr 22, 2018
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Local reaction mixed to Chinese deal for Marina District

Potential contractors and Toledo city councilmen provided varying reaction Thursday to news that a deal is back on for two Chinese investors to buy the Marina District.

John Schlagheck, executive secretary and business manager for the union group Northwestern Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council, said he doesn’t know if the revived Chinese investment deal is good for Toledo or not.

“Nobody knows any of their plans. They won’t tell anybody. They won’t tell the council. How do we know what’s good for Toledo,” Mr. Schlagheck said. “What I think is good for Toledo is if local contractors and local labor build that project.”

His group has made an offer to buy the Marina District property, but it was rejected by Mayor Mike Bell. The organization represents unions that want assurances that any development of the East Toledo site will be done with local contractors using local union workers.

City Councilman D. Michael Collins, an independent who had raised several objections to the proposed sale, said his concerns remain, including the lack of communication with the public as to the investors’ plans for the project and the lack of a commitment to hire local firms and workers.

“My goal here is to have them come to the table and say the construction and so forth will bring local employment. I would be more inclined to go along with it, yes,” if the investors would sign a project labor agreement, Mr. Collins said.

Mike Craig, councilman for District 3 that includes the Marina District, said he’s ready to vote to approve the sale immediately. He said he believes the developers intend to use local and union contractors, and noted the presence of Scott Libbe, executive vice president of Rudolph/Libbe Inc. construction contracting firm of Lake Township, on the mayor’s nine-day trip to China that is now wrapping up.

“I’m going to go out on a limb and say they’ve already chosen their contractor, and that’s a union contractor,” Mr. Craig said. “I’m excited. I’ve spent the last five years cheerleading for this and it needs to be done.”

Another potential offer for $7.5 million came from the “Toledo Community Investment Corporation,” represented by Thomas Sheehan, head of Sheehan Financial Advisors LLC, of Springfield Township. In an offer dated May 3, Mr. Sheehan said his group wants to buy 128 acres at the Marina District for $7.5 million — which would include 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.

Mr. Sheehan did not immediately return a phone call and e-mail seeking comment.

However, in a memo to city council on Wednesday, Mr. Sheehan announced he would publicize his plans for the Marina District development on Friday. He said in the memo to council that after he made his offer to the mayor, he was told to get back to them in 60 days.

“I have been trying to get with the mayor since early April without success,” Mr. Sheehan said.

Mr. Schlagheck said he also has had no response from the Bell administration.

The construction trades council e-mailed to the mayor a proposal 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.

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