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For nearly 27 years, the former Toledo Edison steam plant has sat vacant on downtown Toledo’s riverfront.
But under a plan unveiled Saturday, the big brick building with its two signature smokestacks would become home to a YMCA, a University of Toledo health clinic, and 67 market-rate apartments.
Developer David Ball, who owns the property, cited a strong downtown real estate market and partnerships with the YMCA of Greater Toledo and the University of Toledo Medical Center as the key reasons he’s pulling the trigger on the $16 million project, which will be known as Water Street Station.
"It’s really a great thing for the community and it’s going to have a big impact on downtown," said Mr. Ball, 53, who has owned the property since 2005.
As part of the project, the YMCA will relocate the Summit Street Y, next to the old Riverside Hospital in North Toledo, to Water Street Station. The new facility will be about one mile from the current Y and will occupy 13,000 square feet of Water Street Station’s first floor. It will have two meeting rooms, two studios, locker rooms, and a fitness area with treadmills and other exercise equipment overlooking the Maumee River.
It won’t have a basketball court or an indoor track, as the Summit Street Y does, nor will it have a pool, though there is room for one if money becomes available in the future.
Todd Tibbits, president and chief executive of the Greater Toledo YMCA, said the Summit Street Y, which the organization purchased in 2000, has endured financial challenges because of the building’s obsolete design, loss of rental income, and reductions in state and local funding. A move to downtown will make the center more financially viable, he said.
"The new Y will serve as the hub for a variety of community-based programs and initiatives," he said. "It will connect local businesses to an organization that will help keep their employees healthy, and it will give people living in the downtown and urban neighborhoods a place to gather and recreate."
The Y will offer free or reduced membership to about 470 residents at three low-income apartment buildings downtown: Riverfront Apartments, Vistula Manor Apartments, and Port Lawrence Homes.
The new project also will include a 5,000-square-foot clinic operated by the UT Medical Center, the former Medical College of Ohio Hospital. The clinic will offer wellness classes, access to nutritionists and therapists, a fully functional laboratory, and one-on-one clinical care with a UTMC physician.
"We are in the process of reaching out into the community," said Dr. Scott Scarborough, senior vice president and executive director of UTMC. The new location will be one of five patient-centered community clinics that the hospital is planning for the near future, he said.
The location is a perfect fit because it allows UTMC to reach both people who work downtown and the increasing number of people living downtown, said Dr. Jeffrey Gold, UTMC chancellor and vice president for biosciences and health affairs.
"It’s completely consistent with the university’s mission and our strategic goal to uplift the general health and wellness of the community and to reach out to the various communities from an educational perspective as well as from a health-care delivery perspective," he said.
Mr. Ball said the YMCA and UTMC will share a four-story mezzanine and a lobby area of the renovated steam plant. They will lease space for $9 to $10 a month per square foot.
The project will include 148 parking spaces, including 39 in a garage beneath the building. YMCA officials estimate that they will need no more than 60 parking spots for members.
The renovated steam plant’s other four floors will house 67 one-bedroom or two-bedroom apartments. Their sizes will range from 580 to 1,490 square feet, with rents ranging between $400 and $1,290 a month, Mr. Ball said.
The downtown developer said he expects to break ground in July and complete construction by late 2013.
Financing will come from $5 million in federal and state tax credits, $2 million to $2.5 million in private capital from the developer, and loans from several banks, Mr. Ball said. While supportive of the project, the city and county would contribute nothing financially, he said.
Mr. Ball is in talks with the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority about obtaining financing for the building’s geothermal heating and air-conditioning system. The building will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified, the developer said.
As part of the deal, Mr. Ball will purchase the Summit Street property from the YMCA of Greater Toledo for $935,000. The YMCA will keep its executive offices in the building but will have to relocate within 90 days if Mr. Ball finds a new tenant.
Several prospective tenants have expressed interest, he said, including a charter school company.
Mr. Ball credited Lucas County and Toledo officials for supporting the project, which will sit between Imagination Station and the city’s Promenade Park.
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Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, with approval from City Council, accepted a $2.2 million loan last month to expand and revitalize theriverfront park. Ultimately, the Bell administration wants to construct a stage and water feature there.
Mr. Ball, who purchased his first property downtown in 1985, pointed to those efforts as an indication that city leaders are behind the efforts of private developers who want to take on projects downtown.
"People want that in an urban development," he said. "They want diversity and interaction. They like that feel."
"The current administration has been wonderful to work with," Mr. Ball added. "With the previous administration, I’d have probably shot myself."
Indeed. Mr. Ball’s history with the steam plant is complicated.
Mr. Ball, whose downtown Toledo historic redevelopments include the Ohio Building, the Gardner Building, and the Hylant Building, teamed up with former Ohio State and NBA basketball player Jimmy Jackson to obtain the 1895 steam plant from the city in 2005.
Redevelopment plans initially called for a separate condominium development in addition to apartments in the existing building.
In 2008, the city filed a lawsuit demanding that Mr. Ball’s and Mr. Jackson’s firm, Water Street Station Development LLC, start development work immediately or return the property deed to the city. Mr. Ball refused, citing the local housing market’s downturn as the reason for the delay. Later that year, he pared back the project’s plans and subsequently cut ties with Mr. Jackson.
In a letter of support for the project, Mayor Bell wrote that he was "confident that this project will improve the economic condition of our downtown Toledo business district."
Contact Tony Cook at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6065 or on Twitter @tony__cook.