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Marina District announcement to put Toledo on the map

Marina District developer Larry Dillin says his company is holding back a “public announcement that could put Toledo on the national and international map.”

Dillin, president of Dillin Corporation, told an Eastern Maumee Bay Chamber of Commerce luncheon audience that if this announcement comes to fruition, “It’s something that will be new to the United States.”

Of course, he would not release details; only that his company is trying to secure funding to close the deal.

“We already have gotten some national media that is interested in that,” Dillin told nearly 90 luncheon guests who packed the German-American Festival Society clubhouse at Oak Shade Grove in Oregon.

“We’ve got something that is going to be very exciting,” Dillin continued. “We’re holding off on a public announcement until we get public funding in place.”

For those who are thinking that the Marina District may be dead in the water due to a recession, Dillin’s message was quite to the contrary.

“We have challenges facing us today,” Dillin said. “I guess we all have that. We’ve all been pretty severely impacted with what’s been happening in the economic malaise. However, my message today is I feel pretty good about where things are headed.”

Currently, project investments that Dillin Corporation remains involved total $2 billion. The company’s founder said all of those projects are in Ohio. About $1 billion is being invested in Toledo, Dayton, Cincinnati, and Columbus.

“What we’ve been telling all the communities we’ve been working with is, ‘Let’s stay the course,’” Dillin said. “‘Let’s stay with the projects we believe in.’”

In August, Toledo City Council approved a $3.9 million loan from the State Infrastructure Bank as well as a revised financing agreement with Dillin in order to get the long awaited Marina District finally moving.

Council voted to approve the loan which will allow the main road running through the $20 million planned project to begin. Construction on the new road, Marina Drive, has begun and Dillin expects it to be paved sometime next spring.

But what concerns Dillin is not the fact he has had to ask for public financing to get the project started, it’s the investment coming from Toledo’s private sector.

Dillin scolded guests in what he admitted was a “lecture” because he said there are Toledoans investing elsewhere, but not here. He said for one particular Marina District project he secured $15 million in private investment, but the money is not local.

“Here’s my biggest disappointment,” Dillin said. “The people interested in putting $15 million into Toledo are not Toledoans. There are a lot of real estate dollars available in Toledo, but they are putting their money in Charlotte, Arizona, or Florida. I bet they don’t feel good about that now,” Dillin continued.

“Levis Commons is working out really well. It proves to me you can raise the bar in this community and invest in it well, and still make money out of it,” the developer said about one of his company’s Toledo projects.

Dillin said he has two developers that specialize in senior housing submitting proposals for the Marina District. He said that is also happening at Levis Commons.

“The most recent residential units are senior independent living,” Dillin said. “We think that’s perfect. We think all different kinds of housing projects are what we’d like to see. A common thread for us is creating urban environments with a strong sense of streetscape.

“We’re creating an environment where people want to gather. Our investment in Toledo is to either create neighborhoods or recreate neighborhoods,” Dillin added, noting how an amphitheatre at Levis Commons that offers free concerts in the spring and summer months has garnered large crowds.

Dillin warned that even though the economy is taking its toll on Marina District progress, the entire project could take 30 years to reach completion.

Dillin’s plans for the 125-acre, $320 million Marina District is to have 1,100 residential units with 635,000 square feet of mixed-use retail, dedicated retail, restaurants, and office space. Dillin also has plans to redevelop the historic ACME power generating facility into 200,000 square feet of mixed use.

“These projects, like the Marina District, take a long time in the way of planning to bring these together,” Dillin said.

He noted that planning for Levis Commons started in 1999, but the Town Center did not open until 2004. Much of the Perrysburg project is still under construction.

“That’s the thing with most developers — they’re not as dumb as I am and they turn something out in a couple years,” Dillin added sarcastically.

“We’ve put a few dozen controls in place where we have control over the city so that we can create the quality of design standards we want. The biggest changes we’ve had in the architectural process are changes that come back from the mayor’s office,” Dillin said. “It’s a commitment from the community to us — from us to the community so we can stay the course over that 30 years.

“That’s the economic agenda we want in Toledo — to be able to survive the political cycles as well as the economic cycles.”

 

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