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Downtown Toledo's Fort Industry Square redevelopment taking shape

Northwestern Mutual and Bobcat Bonnie's are the first two tenants, and more than 90 apartments are also part of the refurbished footprint.

TOLEDO, Ohio — A $70 million redevelopment in downtown Toledo is starting to take shape, even though supply chain issues and construction worker shortages are causing delays.

Fort Industry Square, located between Jefferson Avenue and Monroe Street, recently welcomed Northwestern Mutual as its first tenant. Detroit-based restaurant chain Bobcat Bonnie's also is close to opening its first Ohio location in the same area.

Toledo Commissioner of Economic Development Brandon Sehlhorst said Phase I of the redevelopment is nearly finished. The project also includes 94 market-rate apartments, which should go up for lease soon.

"Over the next year, you can expect to see new shops and businesses occupying the ground floor commercial spaces of those buildings," Sehlhorst said. "Given the beautiful and historic rehabilitation of those buildings in addition to being located right across the street from the Glass City Convention Center and new Hilton, there are a lot of positive factors with this location."

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Northwestern Mutual began operating in the new space Sept. 27 and held a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week. The financial services organization employs 50 people and 30 interns on the north side of the development.

Co-Managing Director Brian Kurtz said the company is excited to be downtown.

"We're the only Northwestern Mutual in the greater Toledo area, and this is where a lot of the energy and excitement is," Kurtz said. "We were out of space. We needed an upgrade and wanted to be where the action is."

Bobcat Bonnie's announced plans for a new restaurant in March and hoped to open in August just before the Solheim Cup. However, the global supply chain bottlenecks stalled those plans.

Credit: City of Toledo
Bobcat Bonnie's, a Michigan-based restaurant group, is opening its first Ohio location in downtown Toledo.

Owner Matt Buskard is still hoping to open before the end of the year, possibly as soon as November.

"We are still working on it," Buskard said. "Our biggest issue is the lead times on items and item availability. We get one thing done and then someone goes, 'Oh, that next part is eight weeks out.'"

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Buskard also said soaring prices of materials have tripled the cost of the restaurant build.

Bobcat Bonnie's will be located on the main level, and a bar and arcade concept called Keystone will occupy the basement. The lower level will have access in the back of the building.

Sehlhorst said there is still space for sale at the 200,000-square-foot development, especially in the ground floor storefronts along Summit Street. He said the city is receiving interest from small businesses in the area as well as people from outside the region looking to expand into the Toledo market.

Sehlhorst said there's a trend of businesses looking to move back into the city after years in the suburbs.

"There was the convenience of being located off an interstate highway and next to a Costco that was driving business and location decisions previously," he said. "Now it's being in an urban environment with access to amenities and walking distance to residential locations."

Sehlhorst feels Fort Industry Square is already a success and is surpassing the city's expectations. However, there's still about 2 million square feet of vacant space in downtown Toledo buildings.

"That is equivalent to doubling the size of the Franklin Park Mall and having it be completely vacant," he said. "We have a lot of work to do still to activate these buildings. It's very difficult work. But when you see the success of something like Fort Industry Square, you can really see why this work is so important."

In the past, the buildings in Fort Industry Square were owned by multiple people, which Sehlhorst said presented a challenge. The entire area is now owned and being marketed by Lansing, Mich.-based Karp & Associates, which purchased the parcels from ProMedica in 2017.

Developers also received $8.7 million in tax credits from the state to assist with rehabbing the historic buildings, which stood vacant for decades.

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