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Published: Sunday, 2/19/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

A BLADE SPECIAL REPORT

Local contractor urges slow approach to Marina project

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Bill Rudolph, Rudolph/Libbe Cos. Bill Rudolph, Rudolph/Libbe Cos.
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A top official for the construction company hired by Chinese investment firm Dashing Pacific Group Ltd. to develop the Marina District said preliminary work is progressing, but he is advising a slow pace because of the area's weak real estate market.

"The goal is to go down the mixed-use path," Bill Rudolph, chairman of the Rudolph/Libbe Cos., said.

The 69-acre waterfront site in East Toledo across from downtown purchased from the city of Toledo by Dashing Pacific for $3.8 million is to include office space, residential, hospitality, entertainment, service retail, and an education component, he said.

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The value of the development eventually could top $200 million.

"They have engaged us to lead the planning effort so they have asked us for our recommendations on what has been done at the Marina District, and we have recommended a mixed-use, new urbanism design … a sustainable neighborhood-type design," Mr. Rudolph said. "We are also advocating, given the nature of the real estate market, to take a fairly 'go slow' approach in the phasing of this development, recognizing the real estate market is still pretty challenging."

Some future tenants for the site have been identified, but Mr. Rudolph declined to name them.

He said indications from Dashing Pacific Group Chairman Yuan Xiaohong are to create a development with enough "pizazz" to be recognized internationally.

There is also a plan to move the preserved Great Lakes freighter Col. James M. Schoonmaker, formerly known as the SS Willis B. Boyer, to the Marina District shoreline.

Like previous proposals for the once-polluted site, the plan is to have the Marina District be open and connect it to the East Toledo neighborhood across Front Street, Mr. Rudolph said. "We have been recommending a new urbanism approach to the neighborhood so that [it] would be more of a connected neighborhood," he said. "So think connectivity to this and the Garfield neighborhood across the street. There has been no discussion … that we want a gated community."

He said a market study is half completed.

"There are some of the early concepts," Mr. Rudolph said of the design. "The ones that have traction have a public space along the waterfront -- a parklike setting that I think is exciting."

The city of Toledo accepted title to the former Edison property in March, 2003, along with $4.3 million. Since then, the city built a marina, and the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority completed a $3.1 million marine passenger terminal for Great Lakes passenger ferries and cruise ships at the downriver end of the site.

The land was sold to Dashing Pacific in July of last year after $43 million in taxpayer money was spent for cleanup and infrastructure costs.

Of the $43 million, $19 million came directly from the city of Toledo. The city spent $5.21 million to buy and demolish the old Sports Arena and $8 million more to build a mile-long road -- Riverside Drive -- with sewers and lighting.

Developer Larry Dillin, the man behind Perrysburg's Levis Commons, had a plan in mid-2009 to buy 58 acres of the Marina District for $3.6 million, but under that plan he was to have started erecting buildings by Dec. 31, 2010, to prevent losing the property back to the city. The Dillin sale never occurred.

The sale to Dashing Pacific included all the land west and east of Riverside Drive, right up to the water's edge and back toward Front Street. The real estate purchase agreement includes a permanent public access easement for what is being called city of Toledo "lot A" adjacent to the Maumee River. The agreement also said the buyer will "develop a significant portion of city of Toledo lot A in a manner that will promote and preserve public use and enjoyment."

The entire Marina District is 125 acres. The decommissioned Toledo Edison Acme power plant sits to the north of Dashing Pacific's land.

The company has an option to purchase the former power plant.

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



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