THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER
Toledo has a 120-day purchase agreement to buy the former Southwyck Shopping Center site and is confident it can market the property to an end user in that time, Mayor D. Michael Collins said Saturday.
The mayor said a third party negotiated the price of $3,000,209 on behalf of the city. The former mall’s owners, based in Kansas and Texas, did not know the buyer was the city until close to the end of the process. The sale price is $51,290 per acre, compared to the list price of $72,900 per acre.
Mr. Collins declined to name the possible end buyers. He also declined to name the individual or individuals who put up more than $10,000 in “earnest money,” for the agreement.
“It seems as if with two owners of the property, the challenges that a potential end user has can be frustrating and may have been part of the reason this property has not been successful in terms of the marketing endeavors,” Mr. Collins said. “We have been actively behind the scenes discussing with potential end users what opportunities this presents. There’s no identified end user at this moment.”
The administration envisions corporate headquarters on the 58-acre, now-vacant site and released a couple of drawings that show how headquarters buildings, green space, parking, and commercial space could be arranged.
Southwyck Shopping Center closed in 2008 after operating for 36 years. The structured was demolished the next year, and the site has remained vacant since.
Mr. Collins, who was concerned about Southwyck when he was the South Toledo district councilman, said the deal has no financial risk.
“The downside is not doing anything and losing that corridor of our city,” Mr. Collins said. He said revitalizing the Southwyck area is critical to Toledo’s future and the neighborhood’s failure would be “catastrophic” because of its visibility as Toledo’s only direct gateway to the Ohio Turnpike.
Development Director Matt Sapara said the price tag would have ended up being higher had the city negotiated openly for the property. The purchase agreement was conducted by Louisville Title & Trust, he said, and will be presented for City Council approval when a deal with an end user is set, complete with the incentives the city can offer.
“We’re very optimistic we can get an end user in that 120 days,” Mr. Sapara said, noting that the city will put out a request for proposals.
He said the earnest money initially was planned to be less than $10,000, which is the amount the mayor can spend without needing an ordinance passed by council. When the amount exceeded $10,000, a private party put up the money, which he said is refundable if no end user is found.
Mr. Collins said ongoing and recent investments totaling $36.9 million in the corridor have helped make the site more attractive to developers. Among those are an ongoing $16 million expansion of Maumee Valley Country Day School; the Genesis Village senior living facility that cost more than $9 million; TrueNorth Energy’s $1 million-plus renovation of a Shell filling station on Reynolds Road, and the planned redevelopment of a former Kmart store at a cost of $3.5 million.
The city is demolishing the vacant former Clarion Hotel on Reynolds just north of Heatherdowns Boulevard for $434,000. Toledo has spent more than $7 million on infrastructure around Southwyck in the last seven years, the mayor said.
“By demolishing the Clarion, opening up that quarter, and removing blight, we feel we’ve enhanced the marketability of that corridor exponentially,” Mr. Collins said.
City Councilman Sandy Spang, a South Toledo business owner, said she was cautiously optimistic about the plan as described to her by the mayor because of Southwyck’s owners’ slow pace at selling the site.
“I have no idea why that Southwyck space wouldn’t be a desirable property. That property is well situated. It’s possible that it may be time for us to play that role,” Ms. Spang said.
One possibility that has been mentioned for the site is development of a headquarters for The Andersons Inc., an agribusiness and retailing firm now based in Maumee.
After 34 years at its location in Arrowhead Industrial Park, The Andersons has contacted area real-estate brokers recently in search of such a site because space at its 480 W. Dussel Dr. site has been maxed out and the 103,000-square-foot building has no expansion potential.
The former mall property’s ownership is divided among three entities. The managing partner is MD Management in Kansas City, a firm formerly known as Dreiseszun & Morgan. Various trusts of the Morgan and Dreiseszun families now own about half of Southwyck through a firm called S-S-C Co.