During its August 26 meeting, council voted to approve the loan which will allow the main road running through the $20 million planned project to begin.
The long talked about project is expected to have a public park running along the river, along with a mixed development of both commercial and residential buildings.
But some on the east side of the river, although happy with council’s decision, are still not holding their breath.
Brad Peebles, director of the River East Economic Revitalization Corporation, let out a sigh when asked what he thought council’s latest action meant to those on the east side.
“I hope that the action will finally allow the construction phase to begin so east Toledo will recognize the reality that there is going to be something new for East Toledo,” Peebles said. “There have been a lot of doubts and I still have some but, hopefully this will take care of those doubts. There has been so many things, a long list of things, that East Toledo thought was going to be an impetus for something good to happen and they never to come fruition. We are hoping that the construction begins soon so those of us in East Toledo will have something tangible that will allow many to stop questioning whether the Marina District is ever going to happen.”
Along with the Marina District, the Connecting the Pieces Project has also experienced many delays.
Members of the Connecting the Pieces Project Board were hoping to unveil plans for the Main Street business district in June but are still waiting on the printing of the final report, Peebles said.
The Connecting the Pieces Project, formed in 2007, is made up of members of River East Associates, the River East Economic Revitalization Corporation, the East Toledo Family Center, The Toledo Design Center, the University of Toledo Urban Affairs Center and the Dillin Corporation.
Dillin Corp., who developed Levis Commons, in Perrysburg, has been working on developing the merchandising and business recruitment plans along with the Toledo Design Center. The project was funded by a $200,000 T-grant from the Local Initiative Support Corporation.
Six public meetings were held last year in order to allow residents, property and business owners to explain what they would like to see in east Toledo.
“The final revisions to the document have been approved so it is supposed to be going to print,” Peebles said.
A public meeting will be held once the plans have been printed, Peebles said adding that he is not sure exactly when that will be.
“I would have liked to say ‘By the first of August’ but there have been delays because of the time it has taken to revise the plans. Hopefully we will see the printed plans in the next few weeks.”
The project’s goal was to map out future plans of the Main Street business district as well as taking advantage of the millions of dollars being invested in the Marina District.
“It (Connecting the Pieces Project) goes hand-in-hand with the Marina District,” he said. “The focus was, in fact, driven by an interest in east Toledo becoming something new and revitalized. The project was up-in-the air also. We have all been in a state of flux and there has been a lot of questions.”
Dan Steingraber, a member of the project’s board and Chairman of the REERC board, said he is also waiting to get the plans in hand and out to the public.
“We are just waiting on the document now,” Steingraber said. “We will have one public meeting, and then the plans will go in front of city council, the planning commission and then, hopefully, it will get it into the city’s master plan.”
Steingraber acknowledged the long road the Marina District has taken but, still holds hope for the future.
“We will now be able to develop the first phase of the district, the road,” he said. “It is a complicated project and obviously, the current state of the economy, both on the local and national levels, were issues. Development projects are risky be nature. Commercial financing is very difficult. A local lender was committed to financing a couple of the district projects but, backed out.”
“I do not think there will be an immediate economic impact on the east side but, there will be a psychological impact,” Steingraber continued. “Once the road is underway, we can touch it and feel it. The Garfield neighborhood may be impacted early on with better home values and the Main/Starr Business District, which has been an undervalued and underused commercial district, might see increased business activity now that it is happening. Now that we will see dirt moving, the vertical development that will follow, will be a shot in the arm for us.”