Pounds: Going gamblingWritten by Tom Pounds | President / Publisher | firstname.lastname@example.org
After years of starts, stops and speculation, the former Southwyck Mall property will officially have a new owner in the next 30 days. Whether that will be the City of Toledo or a company with plans to develop the site remains to be seen.
Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins is confident the city will find a buyer within that time frame, despite disappointment over The Andersons’ recent choice of Monclova Township over Southwyck as the site for its new company headquarters. Others, like Councilman Tom Waniewski, aren’t so sure.
Waniewski was one of five members who voted against the $3.25 million purchase during City Council’s Nov. 18 meeting. He told Toledo Free Press he felt the site was too big a gamble with so much taxpayer money on the line.
“To me, purchasing land is a fine line between economic development and economic gambling,” he said. “I think in light of The Andersons pulling out as a possible suitor for that property, we would be taking a gamble.”
Waniewski doesn’t see the city finding a buyer within a year, much less 30 days.
“I hope I’m wrong, but I think that’s a huge gamble with a lot of taxpayer money,” he said.
However, seven Council members believe that gamble is worth taking.
“The things that were attractive about it when it was chosen as a site for the mall still remain attractive about that property,” Councilwoman Sandy Spang told Toledo Free Press. “There are some strong anchors there on Reynolds Road and we need to see that as the prime piece of property it is.”
Some members fear Southwyck’s current owners might jeopardize potential development of the full site by selling off portions along Reynolds Road.
“In order to do aggressive economic development, you have to have large pieces of land to offer entities that are going to bring jobs in. So there are times when it is prudent to control a piece of property so you can keep it together for a full development,” Spang said. “I’m hopeful it will find a use that will create jobs. If we bring jobs to Toledo, every part of Toledo wins.”
Earlier on Nov. 18, the Lucas County Commissioners announced their intent to purchase the former Hotel Seagate for $1.38 million. Calling the vacant Downtown building an “eyesore and a nuisance,” the commissioners said they planned to demolish it to make room for potential future development. The commissioners did not name names, but said there is one public and one private entity interested in sharing the cost.
Commissioner Pete Gerken called the Hotel Seagate site the next piece of the chessboard in future Downtown redevelopment.
“This is where the action is. We are seizing the day and seizing the moment,” Commissioner Carol Contrada told reporters at a news conference.
Are these pending acquisitions visionary investments or reckless expenditures? It depends on whom you ask. As a business owner who lives and works Downtown, I support efforts for revitalization. And Spang is correct that jobs anywhere in the city are good for everyone in the city — as long as those developers and jobs actually come, and the sites don’t become just two more taxpayer burdens. Time will tell. Here’s hoping these gambles pay off.
Thomas F. Pounds is president and publisher of Toledo Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com.