It’s taken four months of building relationships, but City of Toledo Deputy Mayor Dean Monske believes the pending purchase of The Docks riverfront restaurant complex by the Chinese development firm Dashing Pacific Group, LLC is only the beginning.
Monske believes this same company could be the one that develops the 127-acre Marina District in East Toledo.
The Chinese company has signed an agreement to purchase The Docks for $2.15 million. The matter will go in front of city council, which has to approve the transaction before the sale can be closed.
Councilman Mike Craig expects discussion to begin next week and a vote in about two weeks.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Craig said. “I think most everybody on council is supportive. We’ve got somebody interested in our riverfront and in our city. Banks aren’t letting loose of any cash and we really need the investment in Toledo. I think at least one of the restaurant pads will be filled by the summer.”
It began with a trip to China last September arranged by Monske and Perrysburg real estate investor Scott Prephan of Prephan Enterprises. They were joined by Mayor Mike Bell and area businessmen. Later, the potential Chinese investors visited Toledo.
“We showed them certainly around the downtown region, but in the region a half dozen to a dozen investment opportunities, land for development, potential buildings for companies,” Monske said. “We basically showed them what we had to offer that we had talked a lot about while we were in China. The Docks is an example.
“Since that time, needless to say, The Docks was something they had a strong interest in and so we have been working on the details of that, which is what happened now — that we have a purchase agreement which is being put up in front of council for them to look at,” Monske continued. “We’re expecting discussion next Tuesday and there is only a 30-day due diligence period after council gives it the OK. We’re looking forward to this going fairly smoothly.
“It’s a fairly straightforward deal. Before the City of Toledo owned it, and now it’s going to be a different ownership group. It’s no different than deals that are done every day in town that nobody makes a big deal about. Granted, it’s not a $100,000 deal, it’s a couple million, and certainly the city has been talking about it so that makes it a little bigger.”
Prephan has been consulting the Chinese investment group on how commercial real estate investment deals work in the U.S.
“It’s nice that we have a local person,” Monske said. “He speaks to them, not quite daily because they don’t speak English for the most part, but through our friend in China who worked on the trip in September that knows them. We do conference calls on a regular basis through Beijing and other spots where they are located on through Skype. That’s why Scott was there working on the details with them on his last trip about a month and a half ago, because they were working all these details out to get to this point.”
Prephan said, “We’ve had lots and lots of contact with them. We’ve had a package of different development and investment opportunities that I’ve spent a lot of time showing them and they reacted to that and decided this is the place that they’d like to spend their money. We’ve been at it for a long time, so it’s kind of nice to actually see it turn into some real business which will create some jobs for this area.
“I believe that if they have a positive experience with The Docks, that they certainly are interested in doing much bigger and greater things. We talked about the Marina District and some other things,” Prephan continued.
“This is their first investment in the United States. They are nervous, as we would be if we were doing something in a foreign land for a first time, too. They are very bright and going very slow, but I think there are many great things to come. We’re talking to them about many other types of projects, and hopefully, everybody else responds very well to their idea to invest money into our community.”
If the Chinese firm does expand its development into the Marina District, Monske believes the format will be similar to what developer Larry Dillin of Perrysburg-based Dillin Corporation had proposed.
“They are just putting their toe into the water. They want to get into the U.S. to make investments of this nature, so if all goes well with this one, which we fully expect it will, we are already talking about other opportunities for them to be involved with as well — some of these other projects and pieces of land,” Monske said.
“There are a whole bunch of things. But it’s not just this group. There are other individuals and groups that have been here since our trip in September that have also shown interest in investing in things like this or buying existing facilities or pieces of land, or actually bringing companies, whether it be manufacturing operations, distribution, what have you,” Monske added.
“We have shared with everyone, whether it has been international or domestic investment people looking at anything in Toledo, when we talk with that piece of land we certainly bring up what Larry Dillin had talked about — that mixed use idea.”
“When we talk about it, we say, ‘Hey, we’ve had people in the past and all that money that has been spent to get that land ready, we as a city and most developers look at it as a prime candidate for mixed use — commercial, residential, that type of thing.’ We haven’t heard anything to the contrary like, ‘Well, no, I don’t think that.’ It has always absolutely been that and that is a prime site and it makes the most sense to do a development of that nature.”