Last summer, public officials and community leaders joined Penn National Gaming, Inc. for the groundbreaking of the $250 million Hollywood Casino-Toledo, scheduled to open the first half of 2012.
The 290,000 square foot casino can be seen rising off Interstate 75 and Miami Street on the banks of the Maumee River just opposite downtown Toledo. The casino’s art deco architectural design will be complete with structured parking on a 44-acre East Toledo site adjacent to the Libbey-Owens-Ford/Pilkington in Rossford.
The casino project was expected to create 2,100 new jobs during construction and employ 1,200 when it opens — with at least 90 percent of the permanent jobs designated for residents of the Toledo metropolitan area, said a City press release during the groundbreaking.
A projected $25.3 million in annual tax revenue is expected to be generated for the City of Toledo, Lucas County, and the county’s school districts once all four of Ohio’s authorized casinos are open. The state will receive a $50 million license fee dedicated to workforce development programs, bringing Wyomissing, Pa-based Penn National’s investment in the project to $300 million.
Construction of the casino was authorized by Ohio voters in November 2009 when they approved State Issue 3. The constitutional amendment authorizes four casinos in the state which are expected to create a total of 34,000 jobs and produce $643 million a year in tax revenues for the state, all 88 counties, Ohio’s eight largest cities, and every school district. Toledo’s casino was the first of the four to hold its groundbreaking ceremony.
“In our city, a lot of people here underestimate what we can do,” Mayor Mike Bell said. “It’s very easy for people to be critical of good things. I found out as mayor we have to change the culture of how we do things here. I think we can do that. What we have to do is bring it together, because if we don’t fix the ship here we are all going to sink. Penn National has given us a lifeboat here.”
Hollywood Casino-Toledo will open with approximately 2,000 slot machines, 60 table games, a poker room with 20 tables, structured and surface parking and food and beverage amenities including an Epic Buffet and an entertainment lounge.
East Toledo is also getting the National Great Lakes Maritime Museum — to be relocated from Vermilion, Ohio to the Toledo Maritime Center in the Marina District.
The Great Lakes Historical Society, which has over 2,400 members living across the United States and Canada, operates the Inland Seas Maritime Museum in Vermilion.
“We’re not just bringing stuff from Vermilion, we’re actually creating an entire new experience,” said Christopher Gillcrest, executive director of the historical society.
The historical society’s goal over the next decade is to expand the East Toledo facility to accommodate research activities, to attract traveling exhibits and to broaden educational programming. The museum could also serve as an anchor point for riverfront development as it is adjacent to Edison Park and the Marina Drive area, said Toledo officials.
The cost to relocate museum artifacts and renovate the building for display is estimated at $1.2 to $2 million. Costs to construct an estimated 29,000 square foot expansion could run as high as $15 to $20 million. A grant of $1.2 million from the Cultural Facilities Commission has already been awarded. Officials say they are in the process of conducting fundraisers to move the process forward.
“I have to tell you that significant fundraising has already taken place,” said Paul Toth, president and CEO of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.
Mayor Bell said, “Toledo’s waterfront is a vital component of our quality of life and should play a greater role in economic development. Welcoming the Great Lakes Historical Society is one of many steps toward this goal and will help renew the energy on the riverfront. The partnership is a great match for the facility and reflects our maritime history.”
The Toledo Maritime Center, completed in November 2007, was funded by a Federal Ferry Boat Discretionary Grant and was created to foster the development of cross-lake ferry service in this region. The museum will allow ferry boat passengers to witness Great Lakes History while waiting to board a vessel, port officials say.
On the other side of the table, the River East Economic Revitalization Corporation closed its doors after being the lead organization for development in East Toledo for 35 years. The community development corporation was forced to liquidate dozens of properties.
“What happens is CDCs struggle in the very best of times,” said east side businessman and former board member Neil A. MacKinnon, Jr. “So, even in the best of times it’s a grind but the whole purpose of a CDC is for community development. CDCs are always generally in urban or depressed areas of the community because that are not depressed don’t really need CDCs.”
Meanwhile, popping up in former East Toledo retail outlets are internet cafes. Marvin Dabish, who ran for mayor in Oregon and lost in the primary, owns several. His brother, Robert, who is in charge of marketing, explains the reasoning behind this relatively-new type of business.
“In Europe, when you go overseas, these are like at every corner because it’s something you walk in, you have coffee, you relax and have a paper, and you check your e-mail,” Robert said. “They don’t have the luxuries like we have here in the U.S. You know what I mean? To implement that idea here in low middle income areas where they can’t afford it, it’s the same thing.”