Excitement building about Hensville development plansWritten by Jay Hathaway | | firstname.lastname@example.org
With funding set to roll in, Toledo residents will soon see parts of Downtown’s Warehouse District become Hensville.
The Hensville project was initially announced in August. Mud Hens President and General Manager Joe Napoli said the original plan involved four buildings on St. Clair Street near Fifth Third Field — two that are actually attached, and two across the street from the right field fence.
“After evaluating the four buildings, unfortunately, we had to demolish one of the buildings.”
Napoli said Chicago’s Wrigleyville was an inspiration for the project.
“What we contemplate going forward is filling the buildings with restaurants, banquet facilities, an expanded Swamp Shop, rooftop dining and rooftop decks akin to Wrigley Field,” he said.
Napoli cited the success of the ballpark’s elevated seating and party decks as one of the inspirations and themes for Hensville.
“The Roost is extremely popular, so we’re going to extend that concept, to permit fans to watch the games from the rooftops,” he said.
“There will be another rooftop deck that will look out over the Maumee [River] and Owens Corning,” he added.
Diane Keil-Hipp, president of the Warehouse District Association, said she is equally excited about the new developments.
“We’re thrilled,” she said. “For St. Clair, there was a time when almost every building on the street was vacant. The block before it has [undergone] a wonderful renovation. It’s just been a section at a time, and [these buildings] that the Mud Hens are renovating are kind of the last holdouts on that entire street.”
Keil-Hipp said the buildings are significant because they encompass so much space on the block.
“We couldn’t be happier about completing, really, the full renovation of St. Clair,” she said.
“There’s a lot of rooftop entertaining going into the Warehouse District. It’s very cool, and it seems like a common thread in the Warehouse District,” Keil-Hipp said.
Napoli said the team originally considered using the name Mudville, but could not, because it is already a registered trademark of another minor league ball team. However, he maintains Hensville is a fitting moniker.
“Everyone refers to the team as either the Mud Hens or the Hens, so we think Hensville has the potential to work out quite nicely for us,” he said.
Napoli said the Mud Hens organization will operate the new businesses in the renovated buildings.
“We already run a robust catering business. When we’re attracting 10,000 people Downtown, to attract another 200 people to a restaurant seems like it would be a natural fit.”
As for the themes of the restaurants, Napoli said the specifics are still being worked out.
“Right now, we’re looking at a variety of different options,” he said. “We’re talking to several people who have ‘celebrity’ culinary backgrounds. We’re exploring that before we move forward.”
According to Napoli, parts of the funding will likely come from sources such as new market tax credits and historic tax credits.
Additionally, the state recently approved $1.5 million for the project from its capital budget.
Napoli added that there are still some local, state and federal funding sources the team is continuing to explore, such as green initiatives and working with several local entities to pursue other funding.
The balance of the project will come from Mud Hens net proceeds. Debt from Fifth Third Field is set to be clear in 2016, and Napoli said that the aim is for net proceeds to grow as a result.
Porter Architects has been working on Hensville’s design concepts, and the Lathrop Company has been brought on board to manage the construction project. Subcontracting will take place closer to the groundbreaking, sometime during winter 2014-15. Hensville is set to be completed by Opening Day 2016.
Napoli said recreation and entertainment facilities are one of the critical aspects for revitalizing a downtown area.
“We’ve been so impressed with the development in the Warehouse District and Downtown,” he said.
Napoli said Downtown development was one of the primary reasons the Mud Hens organization decided to move its facilities Downtown years ago.
“Now, between Fifth Third Field and the Huntington Center, we’re attracting a million people a year Downtown for fun,” he said. “[Hensville] will be something new and different for Toledo and the region. We’re very excited about the potential success for all of this new activity.”
When asked if he would be engaged in a similar conversation about the Huntington Center area in five years, Napoli laughed, but did not completely dismiss the idea.
“One never knows,” he said. “If the right opportunities present themselves, one never knows.”
Tags: Chicago’s Wrigleyville, Downtown’s Warehouse District, Fifth Third Field, Hensville, Keil-Hipp, Mud Hens President and General Manager Joe Napoli, the Maumee [River] and Owens Corning, The Roost