Pounds: North Towne mauledWritten by Tom Pounds | President / Publisher | firstname.lastname@example.org
The same month that Toledo Free Press launched — February 2005 — saw the closing of Lakeside Centre, a property better known as North Towne Square Mall. A great many things have changed during the past seven years, but one thing remains the same — the abandoned mall sits empty, rotting, collapsing in on itself as its California-based owners stall and shirk their business and community responsibilities.
It’s an eyesore and a hindrance to development. But should the City of Toledo make a deal and spend money to demolish it? I rarely to never want to see taxpayer money used to reward a neglectful business, especially when money is tight and there is a long list of needed capital improvements. While most of the demolition money is proposed to come from money the Environmental Protection Agency provides for brownfield development, cost overruns would most likely come from city coffers.
And what should taxpayers make of the effort by Mayor Mike Bell’s administration to justify what it wants at North Towne by claiming that the also long-dormant Southwyck Mall property is suddenly drawing business? Having Deputy Mayor Tom Crothers publicly reference a deal that reportedly has no funding and is more of a dream than reality is, for this mayor, uncharacteristically disingenuous.
With Southwyck, the owners borrowed the money for demolition and paid it back. With North Towne, the city could wait for years before the demolition money goes back into the brownfield revolving loan fund and no matter how many years it takes, not one penny of interest would be earned by the city.
That Southwyck gambit also seems to be a low-blow political attempt to make it appear that Councilman D. Michael Collins doesn’t know what’s happening in his own district. Councilwoman Lindsay Webb does not seem to be heeding Collins’ protests that he has actually spoken to one of the principal owners of Southwyck and that there is nothing yet to celebrate. Collins has consistently opposed these types of deals with the city being the landlord or owner.
There are legal means to force responsibility on the owners of North Towne Mall/Lakeside Centre. There may be no question that the property needs to be cleared, but there are several doubts as to whether the proposed deal is beneficial to the city and the proposed changes need to be looked at carefully.
Thomas F. Pounds is president and publisher of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Contact him at email@example.com.