Downtown arena's built -- now folks are waiting on Marina District

By Dick Berry - email

Posted by Nick Dutton -

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - The Marina District, the elusive multi-million dollar project Toledo's been waiting for, has been in the planning stage for nearly a decade.

Indeed, Riverside Dr., which runs along the Maumee River in the vicinity of the proposed district, is jokingly referred to as the "road to nowhere."

Some folks question how the downtown arena got built so quickly when the district project seems to be in stall mode.

The difference is that one project relies on public funding while the other is privately funded.

Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken says they got the arena done on time and on budget because they stuck with the team and had a plan.

Plus, the county-built arena is a public -- not a private -- development. Commissioners had to sell their case only to taxpayers.

"We have the advantage of being able to put together a plan with financing in place coming out of the gate. That's what the hotel/motel tax did here. It gave us a baseline. Then you build from there," says Gerken.

The marina district's future is in the hands of developer Larry Dillon. He says he's traveled coast-to-coast, seeking private funds from lenders and equity groups.

Dillon's gaol is to put together a financial package that makes sense.

"One of the things people take a look at is how is the general economy in the region perceived? And so we are constantly working to sell Toledo as an investment environment," said Dillon.

It's a tough sell in difficult economic times, but Dillon says he can point to the success of his Levis Commons Lifestyle Center in Perrysburg when meeting with would-be investors.

"We have to prove to folks our mix of use is right, that our price points are right," said Dillon.

Dillon still has to iron out title issues with the city, but he expects some building activity at the Marina District next Spring, just as the hockey seasoon is wrapping up at the new arena.

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