Toledo Mayor Michael Collins said he was told last Thursday that Dashing Pacific Group will present within six weeks an “outline” for the development of the Marina District.
In June 2011, city council voted 12-0 to sell 69 acres of the Marina District property to the Chinese developers for $3.8 million, but the contract stipulates that if there is no vertical development within five years the property reverts back to the city. Dashing Pacific also owns the nearby Docks restaurant complex in International Park.
Collins says he is looking forward to the Chinese company’s plans to develop the site along the Maumee River in East Toledo, but it may be too late. Later that day, he spoke to a room full of guests at a luncheon hosted by the East Toledo Club at the East Toledo Senior Center in Navarre Park, where he quoted the letter he said went back to the Chinese.
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“I said, ‘I will be more than happy to look at it. I think this is wonderful. I want to see it and I am encouraged by it,’” Collins said.
|Mayor D. Michael Collins spoke at the East Toledo
Senior Center. (Press photo by Ken Grosjean)
“But I will tell you right now, I am going to propose our right to recover that property for $3.8 million and I’m going to notify Dashing Pacific one year in advance that I’m going to put the property back in the market and let them know one thing, and make it very clear to them, that a port-a-potty and picnic bench is not substantial development. That’s not working, so it’s up to them.
“My real hope is that we can take that property and within a year we can find a viable operation for a viable developer, and just transition th
e property to where we pay the $3.8 million back to Dashing Pacific, and it’s a zero sub game for us. But, let’s put somebody in the driver’s seat over there that is going to do something because we are not going to be this patient.”
Council originally approved the sale to Dashing Pacific under the administration of former Mayor Michael P. Bell. Collins, who served on city council, along with District 3 councilman Mike Craig, at the time supported selling the property to the Building Trades of Northwest Ohio, but went along with the sale to Dashing Pacific once certain stipulations were put into the contract.
Those stipulations included the clause reverting the property if no vertical development is realized, a letter of intent guaranteeing that local firms would be contracted for construction, and biographical background checks on the principal investors of Dashing Pacific, Yuan Xiahong and Wu King Hung.
The Building Trades, like Dashing Pacific, at the time was also proposing a mixed-use commercial and residential development for the riverfront property across from downtown Toledo, and Collins says he would not mind giving them a chance to develop the property now.
Mayor Collins added that the remnants of a torn down power plant near The National Museum of the Great Lakes will be cleaned up by August 1. He says it will be up to local residents whether or not three smokestacks will remain, which he called a “signature statement of the neighborhood.”
Collins responded about the power plant rubble after a guest at the Senior Center complained it looked like bombed-out Germany after World War II, and the mayor agreed.
“When I walked out of the (museum) facility after we got to tour it during an open houose, I looked at my wife Lisa and said, ‘This is over with,’” Collins said. “This place (power plant remnants) looks like Stuttgart, Germany, 1946.
“I’m not in neutral, I’m in drive,” Collins continued. “I will not manage a city in decline, and that’s all we’ve seen. When I was on council, that’s all we did. We controlled a city in decline and nobody had the ability or desire to look toward the future. Those days are gone. We can’t do that.”
Main Street beautification
Mayor Collins also promised to East Toledo residents that a new neighborhood beautification program, modeled after the Tidy Towns program he witnessed while visiting Ireland, will come to Main Street no later than 2015.
Collins said the pilot program is planned for Point Place, and planning has already begun there. The program includes clean-up of streets and storefront window facades, getting control of signage, decorating streets with floral displays, and “a change of culture and attitude.”
He said the Main Street corridor will be the second neighborhood, but insisted that the program will expand across the city one neighborhood at a time to make sure it is done right.
He said the city will provide the flower pots, but it will up to neighborhoods to partner with local greenhouses to decorate the floral displays.
“A bad diagnosis never solves the problem. What I’d like to see done with this is, why not go to our Toledo Grows community, why not go to our greenhouses and say, ‘This is what we want to do. What would you recommend professionally we put into these pots? I mean, go into one of the neighborhood stores and ask professionals to see what they think.”
Collins said by getting neighborhood business involved in the clean-up and beautification process, they can also become sponsors, which in turns helps the businesses. Once the program begins, he said it will up to neighborhood residents and business leaders to keep it going.