By Joshua Benton and David Patch
Blade Staff Writers

Page 15

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner got Alaskan salmon with portabello mushrooms, lamb crusted with pecans and toasted caraway seeds, and barbecued peach ragout.

Toledo taxpayers got the bill.

The city treasury will pick up half the cost of the mayor’s Tuesday night trip to Washington to attend his first state dinner at the White House.

The taxpayer tab will include half of the $1,000 charter flight booked through Grand Aire Express, as well as half of the hotel bill in Washington.

The other half will be paid either by the mayor or his campaign treasury, according to Arturo Quintero, the mayor’s executive assistant. Those funds will be used to pay the cost of the trip for Mr. Finkbeiner’s wife, Amy.

But the cost to taxpayers will be lower than it could have been, thanks to a deal offered by Grand Aire.

The air charter company based at Toledo Express Airport would normally charge between $3,000 and $3,500 to make the trip to Washington and back. But when Mr. Quintero approached Grand Aire about flying to D.C., the company decided to cut the mayor a deal and offer a lower rate.

For some airport watchers, the deal sounded too good to be true. That’s because Mr. Finkbeiner was one of the forces that brought Grand Aire to Toledo Express in 1997 in a controversial move. Part of the deal to bring the company to Toledo was a new airplane parking apron. The city of Toledo, at the mayor’s direction, spent $335,000 to build the apron.

But Tahir Cheema, Grand Aire’s president, said there was nothing improper about the cut rate he offered the mayor. “I would do it for the next mayor, too,” he said. “You help people when you can.

“It’s not the first time we gave a discount to a dignitary who needs to be somewhere,” he said, pointing to Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, who flew from Cleveland to Toledo with Grand Aire for free when he was scheduled to speak last month at the annual meeting of the Corporation for Effective Government.

One air charter industry source didn’t buy that explanation.

“That might as well be a campaign contribution,” said the source, who asked not to be identified.

Mr. Cheema said the discount shouldn’t count as a campaign contribution because the mayor’s trip was not for campaign purposes. He added that he recently gave $250 to Mr. Finkbeiner’s campaign fund.

Yesterday morning, before he left for a conference in New Orleans, Mr. Finkbeiner said that the dinner was “terrific, with all the pomp and circumstance.”

The state dinner, honoring Hungarian President Arpad Goncz, was Mr. Finkbeiner’s first, though he’d been to several informal meetings at the White House.

On Tuesday evening, the mayor attended his own 60th birthday party in the Warehouse District, but for only a few minutes. He and his wife left the party, which doubled as a campaign fund-raiser, via helicopter after the mayor made a few brief remarks.

The helicopter, whose use was donated to the mayor by a retired Toledoan, dropped the Finkbeiners off at Toledo Express Airport, where he boarded a plane for Reagan National Airport.

The flight, on a Metroliner turbo-prop, took about an hour and 40 minutes. Mr. Quintero said that the mayor could have gotten to Washington more quickly if he had gone with one of several other charter services in the Toledo area, but said the other businesses couldn’t match Grand Aire’s price.

Once they arrived in Washington, the Finkbeiners were whisked away by car to the White House. City council president Peter Ujvagi, who was born in Hungary, also attended the event but traveled separately from the mayor.

Among the dignitaries at the state dinner: decorating maven Martha Stewart (“I didn’t see her,” Mr. Finkbeiner said); Cleveland Indians pitcher Charles Nagy (“a very nice man, very well spoken”); and National Security Adviser Sandy Berger (“he kept whispering things to the President”). Singer Judy Collins provided the entertainment.

The Finkbeiners returned on the same charter the next morning.


By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page A17

LANSING — Driving around downtown Lansing in his mammoth sport-utility vehicle, Sam Eyde can just feel the property values rising.

Tooling past the sparkling new downtown baseball stadium, through a neighborhood where yuppie cafes have replaced biker bars, he preaches the gospel of downtown revitalization. People are itching to set up shop in downtown Lansing, he says.

“This place is buzzing,” he says. “People want to come downtown now.”

Mr. Eyde, chief executive officer of The Eyde Co., buys and sells real estate, and so, as he puts it, “If I’m not an optimist, I’m in the wrong business.”

But his company, long a dominant player in the Lansing market, is spreading that optimism south. With his recent purchase of three major downtown Toledo buildings – his company’s first venture outside Michigan – Mr. Eyde is betting millions that Toledo’s central business district will soon be seeing a renaissance of its own.

“Maybe in Toledo, everyone is too close to the situation to see all the potential of downtown,” he says. “Maybe there’s some doubt about whether it can happen. But, from Lansing, it looks like a great opportunity.”

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, himself quite a preacher of the gospel of downtown, says that Mr. Eyde and his family has it right.

“The Eydes have the right perspective to see what an opportunity downtown Toledo is for investors,” the mayor said.

And the mayor is hoping that Mr. Eyde will help him out with one of his biggest projects for downtown: attracting a health club for workers and residents.

Mr. Eyde runs a business that has been in his family for almost 45 years. The Eyde Co. handles just about every aspect of real estate development, including land sales, construction, and building management.

Through all those years, the Eyde Co. focused its efforts in the Lansing area, building office structures, apartment buildings, and single-family subdivisions.

Lansing, as the home of state government and with Michigan State University nearby, has a steady supply of recession-proof jobs and has never seen a downturn of the kind industrial cities such as Detroit or Toledo have. But Sam Eyde has decided to put his money – almost $6 million of it – into a Toledo downtown that many have fled.

“There’s so much that tells me that downtown Toledo is a good place for us to be,” he says.

Mr. Eyde admits that his initial motivation for investing in downtown was more happenstance than an earnest belief in Toledo. Last year, he had just closed on the sale of a large property, and for tax purposes, he needed to find a place to put a few million dollars. (See story on the practice of tax-deferred buying in today’s Real Estate section.)

So, in January, 1998, he bought the Fiberglas Tower and the former Toledo Trust building, for $4.5 million. And last month, he closed on a deal to buy One Lake Erie Center for $1.25 million.

Those two deals have given him three empty buildings and a major role in the future of downtown. And, Mr. Eyde says his company is looking to buy even more in Toledo.

“This is their new base,” says Toledo development director Barry Broome. “They’ve done just about everything there is to do in Lansing, so they’re moving their emphasis here.”

Mr. Eyde sees plenty of reasons for optimism in Toledo: the established base of residents in buildings such as the LaSalle Apartments and the Commodore Perry; the opening, in October, of the Valentine Theatre; the continued success of COSI; a possible expansion of the SeaGate Convention Centre, and the potential of a downtown baseball stadium or new hockey arena.

But Mr. Finkbeiner hopes the Eydes will be adding another ingredient to downtown’s revitalization – a downtown health club.

The Eyde family has some experience in the field. From Mr. Eyde’s window, he can see the seven-year-old Michigan Athletic Club – the second largest health club in America, on former Eyde land.

Inside, it’s a veritable sweat palace, with acres and acres of pumping iron and growing muscles. At more than 200,000 square feet after a recent expansion, it includes more than a dozen indoor tennis courts, four locker rooms, two lap pools, and a sea of weight machines. The MAC, as it’s known, has more than 8,000 paying members, including the athletic director of Michigan State.

“This place has been an enormous success, beyond anyone’s expectations,” Mr. Eyde says. “It’s a social center. People love to come here.”

The MAC is second in size only to the East Bank Club in Chicago, a 450,000-square-foot club that sprawls three blocks along the Chicago River.

For obvious reasons, a downtown health club in One Lake Erie Center wouldn’t be anywhere near the palace that the MAC is. But Mr. Eyde said that the first floor and basement of One Lake Erie could be converted into a 40,000-square-foot fitness facility within a year.

The management group that runs the Michigan Athletic Club has agreed to be partners with the Eydes on the project and has been to Toledo several times to inspect the site.

But he cautions that a health club would become reality only if several more pieces come into place. The city, along with ProMedica and Mercy health systems, have funded a feasibility study that will determine how much of a demand exists for a downtown club. Mr. Eyde said he won’t move forward until those results are in.

He says that he would want commitments from several downtown businesses, such as Toledo Edison, Owens-Corning, and The Blade, to support the venture by encouraging their employees to join. It would also take financial incentives from city government, he says, and a partnership with either ProMedica or Mercy.

“We’re not going to move ahead on this until we know it makes sense,” he says, “but it looks promising.”

No matter what happens with the health club, Mr. Eyde plans to move ahead with his plans to convert the Toledo Trust building into apartments. The building, once Ohio’s tallest, has been empty since 1991 except for a ground-floor restaurant fronting Levis Square.

Mr. Eyde acknowledges that some believe the downtown residential market may be nearing saturation, with the LaSalle and Commodore Perry recently opened and the Hillcrest and perhaps other buildings on the way to becoming apartment structures.

But he says that his market feasibility studies are showing that there is still a market willing to live downtown, and the full LaSalle Apartments seem to support him. “Having that constant flow of people in the central business district, that’s what’s going to drive your downtown,” he said.

For a time, the Eydes had been debating whether to turn the building into apartments or condominiums. But the final call was to create 110 upscale apartments, many of which will feature excellent views of the Maumee River and Promenade Park.

The biggest obstacle to the project was eliminated Friday, when the Ohio Housing Finance Agency agreed to give the Eyde Co. $7.7 million in tax credits to redevelop the building.

Mr. Eyde said he’d be ready to make a formal announcement on the project in a few weeks.

The Eydes are the latest in a growing list of non-Toledo firms that have seen downtown as a worthy investment. Wisconsin-based developer Randy Alexander redeveloped the Lasalle building into a successful apartment complex and is rehabilitating the former Hillcrest Hotel. A group of Cleveland investors has been looking at rehabbing the Toledo Edison steam plant, and companies from Ann Arbor and Columbus have committed to opening three restaurants in International Park.

Mayor Finkbeiner says that shows that many Toledo developers are too focused on the past.

“The local guys see old Toledo, how bustling downtown used to be, and how it’s declined since then,” he said. “They think downtown will never return to the old times. But these outsiders see the enormous potential of what we have, with the waterfront and the buildings and the people living downtown.”

The mayor applauded the local developers who have invested downtown – such as Bill and Oliver Hirt, who are rehabbing the Commodore Perry Hotel, and Tom Cousino, who opened the Navy Bistro restaurant in International Park and is constructing a second restaurant and a banquet facility there – for their commitment. But he said that, too often, it takes outsiders such as the Eydes to see the potential of downtown.

But Mr. Eyde is realistic about the downtown and its office vacancy rate – one of the highest office vacancy rates in the country.

When asked about how he plans to fill the Fiberglas Tower to capacity, he replies: “I’m praying.”

He has a strategy mapped out: persuading downtown Detroit businesses to look south. Rental rates in Detroit have risen to the point that he can offer businesses rates more than $5 per square foot cheaper, he says.

He has plans for exterior lighting for the tower and has completed some renovation work in the lobby.

He admits that he doesn’t have any prospects for the building at the moment.

But he has faith.

“Vacant buildings are our forte,” he says. “We like the challenge.”

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 1

In an unprecedented move, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority has agreed to have all of its closed-door meetings tape-recorded, and to provide special notice to The Blade whenever it plans to meet outside the public’s view.

The agreement is part of an out-of-court settlement with the newspaper, and an effort to show that the port is following Ohio’s public meetings laws.

The settlement ends a 17-month legal battle between the newspaper and the port authority over two 1997 meetings The Blade contends were improperly held outside the view of the public and the press.

The port authority’s board of directors approved the settlement by a unanimous voice vote yesterday.

“This was a historic victory on behalf of the people,” said John Robinson Block, co-publisher and editor-in-chief of The Blade. “The port authority broke the law, and we stopped them from doing it again.”

As part of the settlement, the port admitted no wrongdoing.

“We’re happy to be able to focus more of our attention on doing our job,” said port president James Hartung. “This had been something of a distraction.”

The port authority operates Toledo Express Airport, Metcalf Field, and Toledo’s shipping port.

Attorney David Marburger, a lawyer for the Ohio Newspaper Association, hailed the settlement as a “clear victory for The Blade.”

“It’s an outstanding result for The Blade, and I think it’s a good result for the people of Lucas County, as well,” said Mr. Marburger, who was co-counsel for The Blade.

The suit stemmed from a Dec. 15, 1997, meeting of the port board’s airport committee. At that meeting, board members went into executive session, saying they would be discussing pending litigation.

Under Ohio public records law, a public body like the port authority can go into executive session – and thus exclude the public and press from their deliberations – only for limited purposes. Discussing pending litigation is one of those purposes allowed by law.

But at the meeting, a Blade reporter standing in a hallway adjacent to the executive session overheard some of the matters being discussed – matters that had nothing to do with pending litigation.

Among the topics covered: how to deal with a fixed-base operator at Toledo Express whose complaints about port authority staff had been featured in recent Blade articles, and how to react to negative publicity from The Blade. Under Ohio sunshine laws, those are not acceptable reasons for a public body to meet in private.

The next day, The Blade requested a copy of a tape recording made of the executive session, only to learn that then-airport director Mark VanLoh had already erased the recording.

Two days later, the newspaper filed suit against the port, alleging a “pattern of willful, unlawful conduct” in violation of public meetings laws.

Among the specific charges: that the executive session was illegal; that Mr. VanLoh had destroyed a public record; that the port charged too much for photocopies made for reporters and the public.

The suit also alleged that an executive session held on Oct. 23, 1997, was also illegal. Then-port board member Bill Boyle said after that session that the board had discussed a Blade editorial they considered unfair, as well as how to repond to Blade coverage of the port.

The port authority countersued the newspaper, saying that The Blade’s reporter had improperly listened in on the Dec. 15 executive session.

Under the settlement approved yesterday, both suits were dropped, although either party could choose to refile at a later date.

The port authority agreed to:

* Hire an outside attorney to attend all executive sessions and record the proceedings. The attorney, William Connelly of Connelly, Soutar & Jackson, will keep the tapes. In the event that The Blade or any other news organization argues that an executive session was held illegally a judge could choose to listen to those tapes to make a ruling.

* Provide “reasonable written notice” to an outside monitor appointed by the port and “acceptable to The Blade” before going into executive session. Currently, the port board can go into executive session at any time it chooses, at any meeting, and without any advance notice.

The port and the newspaper have agreed to appoint local attorney John Carey, of Watkins, Bates & Carey, as monitor. The port will provide notice to a Blade attorney.

* Comply with all state public meetings laws.

The agreement will last for 18 months, which Mr. Hartung said was a compromise between the lengths of time requested by the two sides. The port authority will pay the attorney’s fees of Mr. Connelly and Mr. Carey.

Mr. Marburger said that to his knowledge no public agency has ever agreed to submit to such conditions in conducting closed meetings.

“No court could have ordered these concessions,” he said.

Mr. Block called the settlement “a precedent-setting victory” for The Blade. “On behalf of the cause of openness in Ohio, we stopped them,” he said. “They broke the law, and we didn’t let them get away with it.”

He said that the newspaper had decided to settle the lawsuit – something it had never done before in an Open Meetings and Open Records case – because a court resolution was being delayed for too long.

“I think they want to get this thing out of the way,” he said. “They need to rebuild public trust, and they have to do penance for the sins of the past.”

Mr. Hartung said that the port had done nothing wrong, but wanted to avoid committing too much of its resources to a protracted legal fight.

“Any time you can settle a legal matter out of court, I think it’s a positive outcome,” he said.

Mr. Block said the public agency was in denial.

“They still refuse to understand that they broke the laws of the state of Ohio,” he said.

J. Patrick Nicholson, the port board’s vice chairman who ran yesterday’s meeting because chairman G. Ray Medlin was out of town, said that he supports the agreement. He particularly lauded the attorneys for both sides, The Blade’s Fritz Byers and Mr. Connelly, who represented the port.

“I’ve never seen two people fight harder to find a solution acceptable to two strong bodies,” he said. “I think it’s a fair and responsible settlement, and I compliment all parties involved.”

The board voted on the settlement after a 30-minute executive session to consider The Blade’s litigation.

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 17

Cliff “Zak” Zakrzewski, a former Toledo police officer who stayed active after his retirement, died Sunday in Toledo Hospital. He was 71.

The cause of death was pancreatic cancer, family members said.

Mr. Zakrzewski was born and raised in Toledo and attended Woodward High School. Immediately after graduating in 1945, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy for the tail end of World War II and was stationed in the Philippines.

After leaving the Navy, he returned to Toledo and started work at the Willys Overland plant, working in the Jeep body shop. He remained at Willys until joining the Toledo police department in the 1950s.

“He had a great way of working with people as a policeman, because everybody respected him,” said Tricia Hines, one of his daughters. At various times, Mr. Zakrzewski was a neighborhood beat cop, a downtown traffic controller, and dispatcher. In one incident she remembered, her father talked a distraught man out of committing suicide.

Throughout his time on the force, he kept up with one of his hobbies: drumming. A former drum major at Woodward, he spent nearly every weekend as an adult performing big band jazz and Polish music at neighborhood weddings, and he played in a local drum-and-bugle corps.

“His father had been a drummer before him, and he gave him lessons and got him started,” Ms. Hines said.

After 30 years on the force, he retired in 1984. He played golf regularly in two police retiree leagues, and he kept playing golf until a week before his death. He did lawn work for elderly neighbors, built model cars for his nephew, and did chauffeur work for Owens-Illinois.

“He loved helping people,” his daughter said. “His life revolved around being active and happy and helping others.”

One of his favorite activities was taking a long drive every Sunday afternoon “if the weather was good,” she said. “We might drive 200 miles on a Sunday, a mini-adventure. We’d go to Indiana or to Michigan. It just relaxed him, the fresh air, looking at new places and learning about them,” she said.

He was a member of the Fraternal Order of Police, Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and American Legion.

Surviving are his wife, Alice; two daughters, Tricia Hines and Pamela Rybka; two brothers, Lucien and Richard Zakrzewski, and a sister, Betty Dossatt.

The body will be at the Walker Funeral Home, Maumee, after 2 p.m. tomorrow. Mass will be held Thursday at St. Hedwig Catholic Church. The time has not been set.

The family requests tributes be made to St. Hedwig Parish.

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 1

Toledo Sports Arena owner Tim Gladieux, seeing competition headed for Rossford, has presented his expensive new dream for downtown.

It includes: a new Mud Hens baseball stadium on the East Toledo waterfront, a new hockey arena in the Warehouse District, an expansion of the SeaGate Centre, and closing a stretch of Monroe Street.

It does not, however, include a way to pay for it all. He estimates the final price tag to be between $70 million and $110 million.

Mr. Gladieux, who also owns the Toledo Storm hockey team, acknowledges that he wants local governments to pay the lion’s share of the cost of his dream, but he said his plan is the best way to get downtown Toledo humming again.

“We can really restore some life to downtown,” he said. “I want people to look at this plan and start thinking about it now.”

He said local officials aren’t moving qucikly enough to decide what new sports facilities the city needs, and he hopes his vision “can help to jump start things.”

In February, officials in suburban Rossford announced their plans to build a $48-million entertainment complex near the intersection of I-75 and the Ohio Turnpike. The complex would include an amphitheater and an ice arena.

The arena’s main tenant, they said, would be the top minor league affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, posing a competitive threat to Mr. Gladieux’s Storm and his 52-year-old Sports Arena, which long ago passed its prime.

Immediately, Mr. Gladieux pledged that, within 90 days, he would break ground on an arena of his own.

Yesterday, 88 days after his pledge, he acknowledged that the goal will go unmet.

But Mr. Gladieux is pushing ahead with a plan that would tie the future of his hockey team to the Toledo Mud Hens.

Mr. Gladieux proposes to tear down the antiquated Sports Arena and donate its East Toledo riverfront site to Lucas County. That land would provide the bulk of the space necessary for the county to build a new ballpark for the Mud Hens, the Triple-A baseball team that currently plays at Ned Skeldon Stadium in Maumee – itself an antiquated structure.

In order For the baseball stadium to be built, the county would need more than just the Sports Arena site. According to Mr. Gladieux’s plan, it would also need to purchase several small parcels belonging to other landowners, as well as take over the fly-ash ponds at the Toledo Edison Co.’s Acme plant.

That inactive plant has been offered to the city as a donation. The city has not yet determined whether or not to accept the gift because of the high cost of tearing it down.

Mr. Gladieux said he has talked to Edison officials and they have told him that they are willing to consider working with a baseball stadium project even if the city chooses not to accept the donation.

“I think they’d be willing to work with us,” he said.

The stadium would be surrounded by retail development and boat docks, in an attempt to tie summertime baseball to summertime boating and other water sports. The site would be adjacent to the downtown passenger hovercraft facility planned by the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. That facility could bring thousands of non-Toledoans to the downtown area.

In exchange for his land donation – and perhaps other future considerations – Mr. Gladieux wants the county to build a hockey arena downtown, attached to the SeaGate Centre. Mr. Gladieux said he has reached an agreement with Ogden Entertainment, the nationally known arena management company that had previously been in talks to manage the proposed Rossford arena.

Mr. Gladieux’s company, V/Gladieux Enterprises, and Ogden jointly would manage the arena, to be built between Summit, Monroe, Superior, and Washington streets. The county owns land on that site.

The arena would seat 13,000 for concerts and 11,120 for hockey games.

Under Mr. Gladieux’s plan, the county would pick up the cost of an expansion of the SeaGate Centre, the downtown convention facility. The SeaGate board recently conducted a study that showed that the facility should be expanded, and the Gladieux plan includes that expansion.

The plan would cause Monroe between Summit and Superior to be closed, expanding the convention center’s space across Monroe and adding parking at ground level. The SeaGate expansion would connect to the arena.

The plans don’t include any details about how all these new facilities would be paid for. The price tags it proposes for each element are vague: $20 million to 40 million for the baseball stadium, $40 million to 50 million for the hockey arena, and $10 million to $20 million for the convention center expansion.

Mr. Gladieux emphasized that the entire plan is “up for discussion. Nothing is set in stone.” He said he released his plan to speed up a process he said has “frankly been too slow.”

In March, Lucas County officials hired Cleveland consultant Tom Chema to analyze the county’s sports facilities needs, in particular where to build and how to pay for a new Mud Hens stadium. He is charged with determining if a new downtown hockey arena makes economic sense.

Mr. Gladieux said that Mr. Chema’s analysis is moving too slowly. Mr. Chema has pledged to have a site and financing plan ready within 12 months of his hiring.

Mr. Gladieux said that Sandy Isenberg, president of the county commission, and Mr. Chema, will be receiveing copies of his plans today.

Last night, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said that he had not had a chance to examine the plans, but said he wants to find a way to keep an entertainment center downtown. In the past, he has expressed support for a dual-facility plan similar to Mr. Gladieux’s.

Ms. Isenberg was not available for comment.

Rossford Mayor Mark Zuchowski could not be reached for comment, but he has said that Mr. Gladieux’s plans would have no impact on the arena plans.

Mr. Gladieux said that he did not consider the proposed Rossford arena in making his plans known. But his announcement occurs at a time when Rossford’s plans are increasingly in doubt.

Rossford officials originally said they would be able to sell the $48 million in bonds needed to finance their complex by May 1. That day came and went, and officials said they were pushing back their deadline to May 20. That day passed too, and Rossford officials still have not gotten a bond rating for their proposed sale, much less found buyers for their bonds.

In February, when news of Rossford’s plans broke, Mr. Gladieux said that if he could break ground for an arena before Rossford, the suburb would cancel its plans because having two competing arenas four miles apart made little economic sense.

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

Standing on the newest section of Toledo’s Riverwalk, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner yesterday announced the latest stage of the downtown boardwalk, which he touts as one of the most important elements of making downtown an attractive place to live.

“People will look back years from now and say this was as critical to revitalizing downtown as COSI, or the LaSalle Apartments, or the Valentine Theatre, or the baseball stadium,” the mayor said.

Mr. Finkbeiner hopes to have a pedestrian walk ringing the down|town section of the Maumee River King, Jr., Bridge, International Park, Anthony Wayne Bridge, Owens Corning’s world headquarters, and the downtown riverfront tending to the Erie Street Market.

This summer, workers will complete a section of the riverwalk in International Park from the end of the current walkway, next to the boat basin, to near the volleyball courts. The city council allocated $350,000 this year for the work.

In the last year, the city has made three additions to the riverwalk: a boat dock on Swan Creek behind the market; a brick-paved stretch on the south side of the creek near Owens Corning, and a boardwalk under construction on the north side of the creek.

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page A1

Right now, they couldn’t seem more different.

Maumee-Western Road is a two-lane rural road flanked by trees and farmland with a few curves and hills to slow traffic.

Airport Highway, just three miles to the north, is a stop-and-go, traffic-packed mess. Its five lanes clog like a hair-packed drain pipe, especially at rush hour.

As development continues its westward push in Lucas County, rural Monclova Township is next. Some residents, planners, and local politicians worry that they will soon see farmland covered with endless asphalt parking lots.

“Development is coming, there’s no doubt about it,” said Joni Shugarman, a township resident.

The story of suburban sprawl can seem dull with all its talk of curb cuts and traffic patterns, access routing and impact studies.

But think about the last time you were stuck behind a half-mile line of cars at a red light. Or the last time you sat in traffic, hands white-knuckled on the wheel, anxious and hoping you could make a left turn before a semi coming the other way ran you down. Or the last time you missed a flight at Toledo Express Airport because of an accident on Airport Highway.

How often those suburban nightmares occur is a function, in large part, of how communities plan their growth.

Monclova residents have good reason to be concerned. Springfield Township, the county’s last boomtown, is just a few miles to the north. From 1970 to 1990, Springfield’s population soared 92 per cent, and retail complexes such as Spring Meadows sprouted up along Airport Highway.

The result was one of Ohio’s most congested and dangerous roads: Airport Highway, with seven traffic signals in a two-mile stretch, confusing lane changes, and a concrete median erected to prevent dangerous left turns.

Once planned as an express route to Toledo Express Airport, Airport Highway has become so clogged that some Toledoans find it just as fast to drive to Detroit Metropolitan-Wayne County Airport.

“Airport Highway was developed the way a lot of places were developed,” said Michael Prosser, an engineer who does work in Monclova. “In came a McDonald’s, then came another place, and then another, until it was a big mess. There wasn’t any planning. Monclova’s trying to do it differently.”

But some are fearful that, unless developers and officials get their act together, the results in Monclova could be the same as along Airport Highway.

Since 1990, the Lucas County plan commission has approved 19 new subdivisions in Monclova, currently in various stages of completion, with more than 2,500 single-family and 500 multifamily units.

Considering that Monclova Township had 4,547 residents in 1990, that sort of additional population would have a very real impact on traffic flow.

“We’ve got enough residential development here to choke a horse,” Ms. Shugarman said.

She and a group of other Monclova residents have been keeping close tabs on the pace of development. Last week, they held a rally on Maumee-Western Road to complain about the pace of development.

“This place is going to be crazy if all these things come in,” said Mary Isaacson, who was holding a sign stating: “We don’t want another Spring Meadows!”

Politicians are taking notice too.

“You only get one shot to do it right,” said Lucas County Commissioner Harry Barlos. “If we don’t do this right, then Airport Highway could end up looking like a good development.”


Suburban growth usually involves a standard set of players: a local government, developers, local residents.

But in the case of Monclova Township, there’s an unusual player involved: the city of Toledo.

Toledo isn’t in Monclova as a governing body; it’s there as a land speculator looking to recover from a bad real estate investment.

In 1987, Toledo joined the long list of dreamers who looked to Monclova’s open spaces as a way to make money. Toledo’s mayor at the time, Donna Owens, and then-City Manager Phil Hawkey, secretly agreed to purchase 1,187 acres in Monclova Township hoping to annex the land into the city, develop it for business and industry, and bring more taxes into city coffers.

In particular, city leaders hoped that Chrysler Corp. would agree to build a new Jeep plant there.

In all, Toledo spent more than $14 million buying land.

But the plan went bust when Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Charles Abood ruled that Toledo couldn’t annex the land because it didn’t touch the city’s borders.

Soon after, Toledo officials began discussions with the city of Maumee. Toledo would allow Maumee to annex the land, in exchange for forming a joint economic development zone. Under the terms of the deal, Toledo would receive a portion of the payroll taxes Maumee collected from businesses on the Toledo land.

The deal put Toledo in the awkward position of spending its economic development resources to help attract more businesses to the suburbs -including many of its own.

Since he took office in 1994, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner has sold off the city’s Monclova land in pieces large and small, from 14 acres for a new coating plant for Lima-based MetoKote Corp. to 435 acres for the site of a proposed regional mall and surrounding retail outlets.

Perhaps the biggest impact on the township will come from the proposed mall, planned for U.S. 24 west of I-475.

General Growth Properties, Inc., of Chicago, wants to build a mall about the size of Franklin Park Mall, which would be a major pull for traffic.

The mall site was annexed from Monclova into Maumee in 1994.


Toledo’s mayor is pushing hard to sell the city’s Monclova land holdings to raise money to pay for Toledo’s share of the costs for Jeep’s new Stickney Avenue plant in North Toledo.

Toledo’s aggressive attempts to unload the land have served to speed up a process that the township would just as soon see happen slowly, according to Gary Kuns, president of the Monclova Township trustees.

“One of the big problems we’ve got in this whole thing is that [Toledo development director] Barry Broome has just said, `We’ve got to sell this land, we need the money for Jeep,'” Mr. Kuns said.

“That’s an honest statement, but it’s also a reflection of how much pressure they have to sell and to hasten the development process. They’re going to sell to someone who wants to get something for their investment quickly.”

Toledo has sold almost all of its Monclova land, but the deal Mr. Kuns is referring to hasn’t been finalized yet. On Sept. 17, Mr. Finkbeiner announced that the city would be selling 212 acres to a local partnership called Eclat for $6.2 million.

Eclat wants to build the Eclat Commerce Center, a light industrial and office park, on the site. Those plans have put Eclat in the spotlight for local residents and officials who think the commerce center could be the start of uncontrolled development in the township.

“So far, we’ve been blessed with good developers, but now we may be caught up in the kind of negative development that we’ve seen elsewhere,” said Mr. Kuns. “Toledo is saying, `We need this money for Jeep; so we’re entitled to do whatever we want.'”

Mr. Kuns insisted that he isn’t passing judgment on the merits of Eclat’s plans but said that the area Eclat hopes to develop – between Maumee-Western and Monclova roads, just west of I-475 – “will be very difficult to develop without a serious impact on traffic issues.”

The long-term plans for the area include the eventual addition of an interchange at I-475 and Maumee-Western. If that is built, access to the Eclat site will be easy enough: drivers will be able to come off the interstate, take a quick left, and be on the property.

But Mike Ligibel, planning and programs administrator for the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Bowling Green office, said that a new interchange is at least 10 years off, and could cost upward of $30 million. ODOT hasn’t even begun any planning for an interchange, and Mr. Ligibel said it is still an open question whether it will ever be built.

That means that, for at least 10 years, traffic headed to Eclat will likely have to flow on two-lane roads such as Monclova Road, Briarfield Boulevard, and Strayer Road.

Combine that traffic flow with what will come from other planned projects in the area – thousands of new homes, a regional mall, lots of new retail and commercial development – and you have a potential traffic crisis.

Mr. Barlos and some Monclova residents have expressed several concerns with the plans Eclat has presented to the county plan commission. Among them:

* It proposes six new curb cuts along the north side of Monclova Road, in a distance of less than a mile. Those curb cuts would mean six new places for people to stop suddenly to turn on a 50 mph road.

The Eclat plan also doesn’t provide any internal access to two nearby parcels of land; if those landowners ever decided to develop their parcels, they’d require two more curb cuts on Monclova, bringing the total to eight.

* The site plan does not include any plans for a future five-lane road the township expects to build through the property to link the future mall site to Maumee-Western Road, Mr. Barlos said. He wants Eclat to contribute to the cost of building the road; if it is not included in the site plan, the cost is left to local government, he said.

* The plan does not include easements along Monclova or Maumee-Western roads to allow for future widening of those roads.

Toledo businessman R.C. Young, the driving force behind Eclat, said he is willing to discuss these problems.

The county plan commission will consider the Eclat site plan on May 27.

For his part, Mr. Young, who owns Young Medical & Home Respiratory Equipment on Monroe Street, said he hopes the park could attract the same sort of development that Arrowhead Park in has – light industries and offices. He said the 191-acre Eclat center would house one or two large businesses, as well as “a lot of small ones.”

Mr. Barlos, the former mayor of Maumee who sits on the county plan commission, said that he won’t approve the Eclat plan until he is certain that “this isn’t setting a bad precedent for all the development that will follow it.”

He said he plans to set up a meeting with all the involved parties – the township, county, and city, as well as the local landowners – to discuss how to best plan the entire area.

Commissioner Barlos said he remembers attending a groundbreaking for a project on Airport Highway in 1985, and being surrounded by cornfields. “I even saw a deer,” he said. “They had one opportunity to plan development along one of our key arteries, and they missed. We can’t make any more mistakes.”


Mr. Barlos said he understands Toledo’s pressure to sell the land for Jeep, but said that planning will have to take priority. “I don’t want to delay the deal, but if we have to, we have to,” he said.


This isn’t the first time that Monclova has been a battlefield over development.

In 1973, local home builder Don Scholz was riding high, a star on the national scene. Four years earlier, he had been named national homebuilder of the year by Professional Builder magazine, which called him a pioneer in modular housing.

“Ahead of his times and ahead of his competitors,” the magazine said, calling him “the single greatest influence in post-war housing design.” His company, Scholz Homes, was a national success.

Everything was going so well, in fact, that he made his biggest proposal yet: a $400 million planned community, called River Bluffs at Fallen Timbers, in Monclova Township.

It was to be the largest private real estate development in the Toledo area’s history: 1,400 acres housing 15,000 people, along with industrial, office, and commercial areas. It would have created a community the size of Perrysburg from scratch, on much the same land the city of Toledo would buy up more than a decade later.

But Monclova residents, angered by the project’s huge scope, rebelled. A grass-roots movement, organized to oppose the project, pressured township and county officials to nix the deal.

They found an ally in a young planner with the Toledo-Lucas County plan commissions, Marcy Kaptur, who wrote a highly controversial report opposing River Bluffs years before becoming Toledo’s congresswoman.

In the end, the township denied Mr. Scholz the zoning changes he needed to go ahead, and the project was killed.

Within two years, Mr. Scholz had declared bankruptcy. He placed the blame squarely on the people of the township: “Marcy Kaptur took it on herself to stir up the farmers in Monclova,” he said in 1990.


For years after River Bluffs, developers stayed away from Monclova and its anti-development reputation, despite its excellent location. Seeing cheap land to the north in Springfield and Sylvania townships, they moved in and created many of the subdivisions that former Toledoans inhabit today.

But in the last few years, with many areas to the north nearing traffic-clogging capacity, developers have begun to move back to Monclova.

Yet, the fear of what could be coming to Monclova has convinced at least one family to stay away.

“I had a couple from Perrysburg Township call me,” Maumee Mayor Steve Pauken said. “They were considering buying some property on Monclova Road, and they wanted to know if what they’d heard about all this development was true. I told them what I thought would happen, with the mall on the south, Eclat to the north, a new interchange coming to the east, all those new homes to the west.

“And they came to the conclusion that they really didn’t want to live there,” he said. “They didn’t want to be that close to that kind of development.”

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

With signs reading “Honk for safe streets,” about two dozen Monclova Township residents held a roadside rally yesterday to protest what they consider unsafe development in the area.

“We’ve got to keep this under control, or our roads will be unsafe really quickly,” said Joni Shugarman, who led the rally.

Ms. Shugarman is concerned about the pace of commercial and residential development in the township, which has been largely rural but is undergoing rapid change.

More than 1,000 housing units are either proposed or being built in the township, mostly along its eastern edge near Maumee.

Because of its access to I-475, the township has been promoted as a prime site for suburban commuters.

In addition, the area is seeing substantial commercial development.

This month, the city of Toledo expects to close the sale of 213 acres it owns in the township. It is selling the site to Eclat, a local partnership that plans to create an office and light industrial park.

Ms. Shugarman and other people at the rally said they don’t have a problem with the type of development, but do have questions about the impact the extra traffic would have on the township’s roads.

“If you add thousands of cars and hundreds of trucks to this road, you’re going to be taking your life in your hands every time you try to make a left turn,” she said, standing on Maumee-Western Road (U.S. 20A).

She criticized the Eclat proposed site plan, which would have put six new curb cuts or roadways in a short stretch between I-475 and Strayer Road.

But Tom Lemon, a staff planner with the Lucas County plan commission, said that Eclat has agreed to reduce the number of curb cuts and roadways to three, and that the company has been receptive to other proposed changes.

Others at the rally said they were afraid the rapid development in Monclova could turn the peaceful, quiet area into another Airport Highway, clogged with traffic.

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 1

A Michigan company has bought its third downtown Toledo building and is considering putting a health club in it.

Lansing-based Eyde Co. bought One Lake Erie Center last week for $1.25 million, Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said. The five-story, white stone structure joins the Fiberglas Tower and the Toledo Trust building as Eyde properties downtown.

“These people have faith in downtown Toledo, and they should be applauded for that,” Mr. Finkbeiner said.

Representatives of Eyde Co. did not return phone calls seeking comment last night.

Mr. Finkbeiner said company representatives have expressed interest in establishing a health club in the building. Eyde officials earlier had said they might put a health club in the Fiberglas Tower, which is formally known as the HyTower.

The mayor has said that a downtown health club is one of his administration’s top development priorities.

The Eyde family has some experience in the health club field. The company owns the land where the Michigan Athletic Club is in East Lansing. The club has more than 9,000 members and 300,000 square feet of space.

The city of Toledo, ProMedica, and Mercy Health Partners are funding a $30,000 marketing and feasibility study to determine what shape a downtown health club should take.

One Lake Erie Center was built in 1928 as Lamson’s, then Toledo’s finest department store. But as shoppers shifted their business from downtown to malls and shopping centers, Lamson’s declined and shut down in 1976.

In 1978, the building was purchased by developer Lloyd Colenback, who converted it into an office building and renamed it One Lake Erie Center. Its major tenant was Owens-Corning, which had outgrown its offices at the nearby Fiberglas Tower.

But when OC built its world headquarters on the west bank of the Maumee River, it pulled its 230 employees out of One Lake Erie, leaving Mr. Colenback – the former head of Downtown ToledoVision known as “Mr. Downtown” – in financial trouble.

In 1997, State Street Bank of Boston foreclosed on the building. The bank bought it outright in April, 1998, for $1.8 million.

Eyde Co. purchased the Fiberglas Tower and Toledo Trust building in January, 1998, for a combined $4.5 million. They still are vacant, although several businesses are open in the street-level retail space between the two buildings.

In January, the company announced plans to turn the Toledo Trust building into apartments or condominiums and to renovate the Fiberglas Tower to make the building more attractive to high-tech businesses.

The Eydes were not the first suitors for One Lake Erie. Dave Ball, who owns the Ohio Building and the Gardner Building downtown, last year offered city officials a deal: he would buy One Lake Erie if the city would move its engineering department into the building, giving him a reliable tenant.

The city of Toledo has been looking for a way to move its engineers out of Government Center, where they occupy about half the 17th floor.

Mr. Finkbeiner said last night that where the engineers go likely will depend on which developer agrees to make improvements on the Woolworth, Kresge, and Ken’s Flower Shop buildings on Adams Street.

Those buildings, widely considered eyesores, are across the street from the Valentine Theatre, which is scheduled to open in October. Downtown advocates consider the theater the cornerstone of any downtown renaissance.

The mayor said that whoever agrees to revitalize those buildings will get to have the city’s engineers as a tenant. Thus far, the Eydes have expressed interest, as has Randy Alexander, the Wisconsin developer who turned the former Lasalle’s department store into apartments and is renovating the Hillcrest Hotel.

Before the engineers move out, the city will have to find a substitute tenant for the 17th floor of Government Center, which is owned by the state of Ohio.

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 9

The Coney Island hot dog shop and other downtown eateries may have some mobile competition if an ordinance gets the council’s approval tomorrow.

At a 4 p.m. meeting today, council’s law and criminal justice committee will consider changing the Toledo Municipal Code to allow people to vend hot dogs and other food from pushcarts downtown.

Proponents of the change say it could help Toledo’s downtown seem more like that of a big city.

“When you go to Toronto or other cities, you always see these guys selling hot dogs on the street,” said Councilman Rob Ludeman. “If you want to build a downtown, you’ve got to have a good mix of businesses, and hot dogs are a part of that.”

The proposed ordinance was spurred by the efforts of Bob Thompson, a 51-year-old South Toledo resident.

Mr. Thompson owned Thompson’s Quick Print downtown for 18 years before selling the business in March. Now he seeks a new career: frankfurter mogul.

“I think it’ll add something new to downtown, another option,” Mr. Thompson said.

If the council OK’s the ordinance, Mr. Thompson’s company, to be called Mustard’s Last Stand, will set up its first vending stand in Levis Square later this month.

Mr. Thompson said he plans to eventually sell hot dogs, bratwursts, hot pretzels, and pizza by the slice.

When Mr. Thompson – who likes his dogs with ketchup, mustard, onion, and jalepeno – started investigating the possibility of a downtown hot dog cart, he discovered it was illegal.

“How can it be an All-American City without hot dogs?” he asked. He appealed to council members and administrators, and has the backing of Mayor Carty Fink|beiner for the change in the law.

Some council members fear that restaurateurs might not relish the thought of a new competitor for the limited downtown lunch market -particularly a competitor with almost no overhead, no less.

Several restaurant owners will be invited to express their views at today’s meeting.

To assuage their fears, the ordinance before the council limits vendors’ hours to 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and bars them from setting up shop within 20 feet of the entrance of any restaurant or food service provider.

If the law and criminal justice committee approves the ordinance today, it could be on the agenda for tomorrow’s regular meeting.

At tomorrow’s meeting, the council will consider:

* Selling city-owned property at 526 Elm St. for $150 to the owner of a neighboring apartment building. The new owner, 526 LLC, will tear down a vacant building there and build an off-street parking lot for its tenants.

* Spending $40,000 on software for the city’s division of taxation and treasury. The software, named STAX, would allow city employees to use federal tax information to catch Toledoans who are underpaying their city income tax.

Gene Borton, city tax commissioner, has said the software could pull in millions in new revenue for the city. The council is expected to hold off on taking any action at this week’s meeting.

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