COLUMBUS — Toledo’s proposed $21 million transformation of part of its Warehouse District into “Hensville” — with Fifth Third Field at its heart — could receive a $1.5 million boost under a proposed $2.4 billion state capital budget released on Tuesday.
But ProMedica’s hope to incorporate an underground parking garage into its plan to convert the 119-year-old Steam Plant on the Maumee riverfront into its new corporate headquarters did not make the cut.
“It does not mean that ProMedica won’t have a chance in 2016,” state Rep. Michael Ashford (D., Toledo) said. “It is a great project. When they decided to announce ProMedica, projects had already been prioritized.”
The parking garage would be part of a $40 million investment expected to be made by ProMedica, the operator of a dozen Toledo-area hospitals.
The wish list of projects put together by a committee of the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce preceded ProMedica’s announcement and instead included a request for $3 million toward the $9 million third phase of improvements to riverfront Promenade Park.
Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins put that project on hold, knowing construction of ProMedica’s underground parking garage for roughly 700 employees would affect the park. The Promenade Park funding was not included in the capital budget bill.
In all, projects in Lucas County — not counting those of statewide interest that might also touch the county — are slated to receive $29.3 million.
The 188 pages of House Bill 483 also hold $10 million for possible equipment, design, engineering, and land acquisition as part of an effort to find alternative uses for sediment dredged from Lake Erie harbors other than dumping it into the open lake.
“A concern was raised to me a number of months ago that there’s always talk about doing something about open lake dumping and dredging problems, but there’s never really been an attempt to attack that problem,” Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green) said. “That is one part of the algal bloom problem …
“We can take dredged material to do something positive for wetland development, habitat development, and possible [agriculture] reuse,” he said.
The bill includes $750,000 toward renovations at the Toledo Zoo Aquarium for its leafy sea dragon exhibit and a new aquarium touch-tank on the Bowling Green State University campus tied to internships in marine biology. It also gives $2.5 million for Attorney General Mike DeWine’s plans to base a new forensics laboratory at BGSU.
An additional $16 million will go for planned improvements to the school’s Moseley Hall Science Laboratories.
The bill addresses construction and equipment upgrades at colleges, K-12 schools, government buildings, parks, prisons, museums, historic sites, and other venues across the state. The goal is to get it to the governor’s desk for his signature by April 2 so that it could take effect on July 1.
This marks the first infusion of state capital budget money into local community projects since 2008. There was no capital budget at all for 2011 and 2012 because of the state’s tight borrowing constraints at the time.
Projects tied to economic development were given priority. That likely helped the University of Toledo’s plan to partner with Northwest and Terra state community colleges to create a $4.7 million work-force development center. It’s slated to receive $1 million, $1.7 million less than it asked for.
“We’ve had such pent-up desire to get things on the list because we haven’t done one since 2008, so I think the cream of the crop really came to the table …,” Rep. Barbara Sears (R., Monclova Township) said. “I think the Fifth Third Field one is great in that it looks at our downtown city core.”
The Mud Hens organization has talked about converting St. Clair Street into a pedestrian mall, turning a parking lot across the street from the convention center and the ballpark into a concert and festival area, and redeveloping three long-vacant buildings into new dining, retail, and residential opportunities. The approved amount of $1.5 million was half of what was requested.
Joe Napoli, president and general manager of the Mud Hens and Walleye, updated the Toledo Warehouse Association on the project on Tuesday. He said the first phase to renovate and repurpose existing buildings would begin in December or January contingent on approval of state and federal historic tax credits.
The second phase to create an event center and amphitheater for activities and concerts on space currently occupied by the parking lot and footprint of the now demolished Consumers Plumbing building would come later.
Mr. Napoli said the application process for new market historic tax credits is going smoothly. However, he said architects working on the project on behalf of the Mud Hens have met some obstacles with the state historic group that approves tax credits.
He said the buildings at 3 and 9 South St. Clair, near Washington Street, have serious structural issues in the facades, and the state commission is balking at the Mud Hens' construction plans.
“They want us to use the existing structure to support the rest of the building," he said. "We want to build a structure within the structure to support all the activities we have."
Ms. Sears also pointed to $1 million earmarked for an $8.3 million Fulton County Visitor and Heritage Center museum that will co-exist with a new Ohio Department of Transportation facility north of the Turnpike on State Rt. 108.
“The Fulton County one does everything that we really want to do, and that is have some of these public entities share services and share resources, and be able to save taxpayer dollars by looking at things as one big project,” she said.
Staff writers Mark Reiter and Tom Troy contributed to this report.
Contact Jim Provance at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-221-0496.