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Published: Friday, 5/27/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Developer hopes for interest in Marina District

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

A 20-story tower in the shape of a glass blow tube and a Glass Hall of Fame celebrating Toledo’s historic role as an innovator of the glass industry would be two of the buildings that would rise under Thomas Sheehan’s vision of the Marina District, he told reporters Friday.

Mr. Sheehan, one of three suitors for the Marina District property, unveiled his plan for a community-owned development just as Mayor Mike Bell has returned from a nine-day economic development trip to China where he announced a Chinese investment firm’s renewed offer to buy and develop the Marina District.

The mayor told reporters yesterday that he is “absolutely” committed to the deal offered by Dashing Pacific Group Ltd., of China to buy a 69-acre parcel of the Marina District for $3.8 million. The mayor is hoping for a vote on the deal by city council when the board meets Tuesday.

Despite the mayor’s lack of interest in his proposal so far, Mr. Sheehan, head of Sheehan Financial Advisors LLC, 8315 Hidden Forest Drive in Springfield Township, said he is holding meetings in hopes of getting some consideration for his plan before council votes.

“This current plan is not a reaction to any other plan. It is a plan that started in Toledo and hopefully ends in Toledo,” Mr. Sheehan said. He has proposed the newly formed Toledo Community Investment Corp. would buy the entire 128-acre site for $7.5 million.

The plan would include a 400,000-450,000-square-foot building along Main Street that would celebrate studio and art glass, glassware, commercial and industrial glass, and solar glass.

“It’s purpose is to tell the story of glass in America. We plan to preserve the techniques and artifacts of the founders, inventors, visionaries, and current masters of glass,” Mr. Sheehan said.
He estimated up to 450,000 annual visitors, $8.5 million in admissions and product sales, and 200 full- and part-time jobs. A second planned building is even more elaborate — a 15-20-story cylindrical tower in the form of a glass blow pipe with a structure resembling a “gather” of hot glass at the end. It would include hotel rooms, luxury condominiums and office suites.

Mr. Sheehan said the Toledo Community Investment Corp. is now a privately held corporation that would sell securities through a public offering in Ohio only. He would require at least 51 percent of the ownership to be based in Toledo. He likened his plan to that of the community corporation that owns the Green Bay Packers.

He also announced his intent to make an offer to buy the former Libbey High School in South Toledo and turn it into the Toledo Community Investment Corp.’s offices.

Mr. Sheehan met yesterday with John Schlagheck, the executive secretary of the Northwest Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council, an association of construction unions, which is also offering an alternative to the Dashing Pacific proposal. The group is opposed to the Dashing Pacific deal because the investors have been unwilling to guarantee that the planned $200 million development would be done by union workers. Supporters of the deal say union contractors are likely to do development.

Both groups are expected to make an appearance in front of city council’s Economic Development Committee Tuesday morning.

Mr. Schlagheck said he was impressed with Mr. Sheehan’s ideas, especially the concept of a community-owned project.

“I think his ideas warrant a good look and further investigation,” Mr. Schlagheck said.

The mayor had announced last month that the Dashing Pacific investors had taken back an offer to buy the land, but reported this week toward the end of his China trip that the deal was back on the table.

Dashing Pacific’s plans have not been publicly detailed, but whatever the investors do would have to pass muster with a five-person architectural review committee that was established in 2007 to approve designs for the Marina District.

Also Friday, a candidate for Toledo City Council District 3, Dan Angel, endorsed development of the Marina District, whether by Dashing Pacific or one of the other two entities.

“Though the sale of the property will benefit the city as a whole, the people of District 3 will benefit the most. The sale will bring potential jobs benefiting our valued resource of labor and increase the property values for District 3 residents on the East Side, both of which are desperately needed for our people,” Mr. Angel said.

The current councilman, Mike Craig, has been a supporter of the Dashing Pacific deal.

Contract Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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