Friday, Oct 19, 2018
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Michigan developer seeks to buy, revive Berdan Building in downtown Toledo


The developer who turned the Standart Lofts into upscale living space envisions apartments and retail space at the vacant Berdan Building, seen here.

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A vacant downtown Toledo landmark could get a $20 million investment to create apartments and retail space if a development deal is successful.

The empty and crumbling Berdan Building, standing across from the entrance to Fifth Third Field, could be filled with 115 market-rate apartments with retail space on the ground floor in two years, said Kevin Prater, a developer who is based in Lansing.

Mr. Prater said he hopes to close on a deal to purchase the building at 601 Washington St. by the end of this week. Lucas County Auditor’s Office records list the current owner as Parkstone Berdan LLC.

Mr. Prater’s firm successfully redeveloped the nearby Standart Lofts, an upscale 75-unit apartment building, with stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, and a rooftop deck. That building is nearly full, Mr. Prater said.

“This is a real opportunity for downtown Toledo,” said Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken, speaking about the project at the commissioners’ weekly meeting Tuesday afternoon. All three commissioners voted unanimously at the meeting to release liens on the property owed to the county by a previous developer.

Those liens date from a 2005 agreement the county made with current owner, Parkstone Berdan LLC.

Mr. Gerken said the county has recovered about $70,000 in interest owed on its $500,000 investment from 2005 and hopes to get back about $100,000 more. He defended the county’s stake in the building from eight years ago, saying, “It was the right thing to do. But it may have been the wrong time.”

A depressed real estate market hampered previous efforts at revitalization.

“So that this deal can go forward, we’re waiving some claims for $400,000,” Mr. Gerken said.

Added Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak, “With the condition that it’s in, we’re fortunate to have redevelopment.”

Mr. Prater said the structure is in rough shape, with a collapsed roof. He declined to state the price he hopes to pay for the building but said overall the project represents about a $20-million investment. The project will be privately financed, Mr. Prater said, though he hopes to obtain historic-preservation tax credits.

The Berdan Building is an important Toledo landmark and an excellent example of early 20th-century commercial style, according to the 1974 application for the structure to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The five-story building was completed in 1902 and has terra cotta molding around its main doorway and elsewhere.

“The history of the Berdan Company, wholesale grocers, is inextricably entwined in the early history of Toledo,” the application states, as the company’s founding families, Ketcham, Secor, and Berdan, were early Toledo pioneers. It also notes the building’s load-bearing wall structure is “unusually distinctive.”

According to The Blade archives, the building was designed by George S. Mills. It was listed on the National Register in 1975.

A 1935 Toledo City Directory lists the firm’s business as “wholesale grocers, wholesale goods and notions, coffee roasters, tea importers, jobbers in cigars.”

The building’s prominent location, next to Fifth Third Field and along a major downtown thoroughfare, makes it a critical property to redevelop the Warehouse District neighborhood, said Diane Keil-Roe, president of the Toledo Warehouse District Association.

“It has that visibility — that right now it doesn’t look so great, but if it was renovated and looked the way the Standart looks, it would make a great entrance into downtown,” Ms. Keil-Roe said.

Harlan Reichle, president of the commercial real estate firm Reichle Klein, said he only was familiar with the project in general terms but was encouraged by Prater Development’s work at Standart Lofts and the market for downtown living.

“It would appear to me that the demand is there,” Mr. Reichle said. “The enthusiasm about downtown living is growing.”

Past development deals for the structure have fallen apart.

Most recently, Cleveland firm Landmark RE Management backed out of a deal after a city-backed plan to secure a $10 million federal loan didn’t come to fruition.

Mr. Prater said he believes his firm will be successful, however. “Our track record in the community has proven itself,” Mr. Prater said.

Contact Kate Giammarise at:, or 419-724-6091, or on Twitter @KateGiammarise.

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