Ford announces $35 million Westgate redevelopmentWritten by Myndi Milliken | | email@example.com
Toledo Mayor Jack Ford released plans today for a $35 million redevelopment to Westgate Shopping Center – a move that could leave many of the shopping center’s current small businesses out in the cold.
”This will provide hundreds of construction jobs and nearly 200 new COSTCO jobs with wages in the $35,000 range with benefits,” Ford said.
Ford said the design will make for dramatic improvement and a ”signature project” for Toledo and Northwest Ohio.
Ford said to assist in the redevelopment, the City of Toledo has pledged $500,000 in capital funds and is assisting in the application for a $750,000 Clean Ohio funds to help with environmental remediation. Ford said tax abatement is also part of the package.
”This project is not being accomplished on the backs of school children. The City, developer and Washington Local Schools have an agreement to share $300,000 of the tax generated by this project to make the school district whole,” Ford said.
Ford said the City’s deal with Costco is nearly finished, and the announcement of the redevelopment was one step in the negotiation process. Demolition is expected to begin this spring.
Currently agreements have been reached with Barry Bagel and SteinMart to remain. Seven other smaller businesses have currently been pursued to stay.
Liz Holland, CEO of Westgate’s management group and principal owner of Westgate, said that many of the smaller business owners, who are currently not paying market rate, will likely not be returning to Westgate.
”As part of the financing package, we will have to demonstrate the credit-worthiness of everyone we sign a lease with,” Holland said, noting that many of the smaller business owners are not paying market-rate rent at this time, and that rent will increase significantly when the development occurs. ”The tenants we are currently talking to are the ones we believe will be able to clear that hurdle.”
Donna Cohen, co-owner of Happy Badger, a small, family-owned business, said the news doesn’t come as a surprise.
”They haven’t invited any of the smaller businesses back. She said new buildings need a guarantee of big paychecks. You recruit the big guys guaranteed to pay the rent. You know that doesn’t include the small businesses.”
Cohen said she has to be out of Westgate by Feb. 1, an extension from the Jan. 1 deadline she was initially given.
”I feel worse for the loyal tenants,” she said. ”The ones who have been here for years and put a lot of money into this. They’re being treated as disposable.”
Cohen said she will face the same issue as many small businesses: affordable rent.
Holly Berger, assistant manager for chain-store hair salon, Fiesta, said the news is good for her company, and they have every intention to stay. Fiesta has been at Westgate for more than 15 years.
”I really feel like the media is just taking stories and telling mistruths,” she said. ”We have been asked to stay. Now it seems like a lot of the business has slowed down because the media has been saying Westgate’s falling apart. It’s not true.”