Ward: Days of future passedWritten by Lisa Renee Ward | | email@example.com
Two pieces of legislation before Toledo City Council’s May 10 agenda review have a recorded history.
Brad Peebles, commissioner of development, presented legislation to Council that would allow Toledo to purchase 48 acres of land off Angola Road from Capital Commons Investors for $1.05 million (split into three yearly payments of $350,000 taken from the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) budget). He said the partnership between Toledo and Capital Commons began around 1987.
“The city’s commitment to this project was to first and foremost pay for or facilitate the payment of infrastructure improvements, i.e. roads, sewer, water, into the site,” Peebles said. “It has not been completed and to date if the city were to complete those infrastructure improvements we estimate those costs to be in excess of $1.2 million.”
Councilman Rob Ludeman said at one point Toledo and Capital Commons were going to do a land swap; this 48 acres for land in the Triad Business Park in Monclova.
“Promises made by the city years ago for the infrastructure have not come to fruition, which has stalled potential development of that Phase Two of Capital Commons,” he said.
In 2002, developers Tom Schlachter and Paul Avery sought a zoning change from industrial to residential for manufactured housing on Angola Road.
It was reported that in 1997 Toledo promised to seek $1 million in funding for the infrastructure improvements through state grants or city funds, but they did not guarantee this and that specific projects had to be presented by the developers before any funding was provided by Toledo. The concern about this land being used for manufactured housing still remains.
Ludeman said there was a glut of it in that area.
“I think this would be a good idea if we can keep this from being a mobile home park and use it for industrial,” Council President Wilma Brown said.
“I thought we were getting out of the real estate business,” Councilman Adam Martinez said.
“It’s my opinion and belief, by us acquiring and retaining ownership, if we sell and or give away or whatever, to entice a development — It’s cheaper than us having to install the infrastructure improvements,” Peebles said.
Why Toledo believes it can market the property as a greenfield site better than the current developers was not discussed. Peebles did not respond to requests for comment.
The CIP budget is not expected before the middle of June.
“It’s a problem … doing expenditures out of the capital improvement fund without seeing the whole budget,” Councilman Joe McNamara said. “Especially since we took such a massive chunk out of the capital improvement program to fund the general fund.”
Peebles said having a blank site increased the ability to sell it. McNamara did not feel this justified an additional drain on CIP. Martinez and McNamara said they’d prefer to have the CIP budget numbers first. While the legislation asked for emergency passage, Peebles said first reading was acceptable, this means there will be at least one more agenda review before it is before council for a vote.
Toledo leasing office space outside of One Government Center is not a new topic.
Legislation for a five-year lease with Eyde Construction Company for 25,711 square feet of office and storage space in One Lake Erie Center for the Division of Engineering Services at an average cost of $354,573 a year was also discussed at agenda review.
In 1999, the city’s engineering operations in the transportation department and the utilities department were merged.
Former Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner advocated for engineering services to be the anchor tenant at One Lake Erie Center. While Gov. Voinovich let Toledo out of its lease for space on the 15th floor so the Department of Utilities could move in 1997, Gov. Taft’s administration in 1999 said Toledo would still be responsible for the 17th floor lease costs. The city later moved other departments into the space.
In 2000, the first 11-year lease for One Lake Erie Center was said to average $362,000 a year, the last yearly lease price was $369,750.
Engineering is now the only tenant in the building.
“Our landlord was anxious to keep us so we were able to get a lower rate,” said Commissioner of Engineering Services Robin Whitney.
“There is increasingly more space in One Government Center, have you done a feasibility study?” Councilwoman Lindsay Webb asked.
Whitney said the city had but when it factored in the relocation costs and the secured parking that is offered there, since they lock down the garage at night, which protects the engineering vehicles and equipment, it felt remaining there was the best option.
“What would happen if you signed a lease for less than five years?” Webb asked.
“I’m not sure if our landlord would be willing to do that,” Whitney said.
Deputy Mayor Tom Crothers said he undertook the majority of the negotiations and there were concerns about locating at One Government.
“We have questions about the floor loading, we have a lot of plan cabinets that are very heavy, these plans cabinets are tremendously heavy,” he said.
Transportation was previously located on the 17th floor of One Government Center. The Lucas County Engineer is also located at One Government Center. The weight of plan cabinets does not appear to have been a concern raised in the past.
“The Eyde folks were just absolutely adamant” they would not consider less than a five-year lease, Crothers said.
Councilman D. Michael Collins asked Crothers what the city pays per square footage at One Government. Crothers said he didn’t know, that he had been quoted at $13.01 for the space the state will be vacating.
Collins questioned the accuracy of the quote and there will be at least one additional agenda review where this can be discussed.
When it comes to Capital Commons, what’s said to have been a promise does not appear to be one that previous administrations recognized. The original goal of moving engineering services to One Lake Erie Center was to stabilize a Downtown building, which continues since Toledo is the only tenant. This should place Toledo in a stronger negotiating position. It was also supposed to create additional tenants, which has not been so successful.
Council should look at the documentation from the past, but determine what’s best for Toledo today.
Toledo Free Press Web Editor Lisa Renee Ward operates the political blog GlassCityJungle.com.