Coronavirus not slowing down most development projects
At least one major economic development project in northwest Ohio is at a standstill due to the coronavirus outbreak, but for now, most developers and officials remain optimistic about the future.
Construction workers are exempt from Gov. Mike DeWine’s stay-at-home order, but Cleveland-Cliffs announced last week that it is pausing work on a hot briquette iron manufacturing plant in East Toledo. The $830 million endeavor was scheduled to be up and running this summer.
“We were pretty far along,” company spokesman Patricia Persico said. “The original plan was to start up in June, so we were close to completing it. Depending on how this goes, we’ll adjust our timeline accordingly on completion.”
The facility eclipsed the Fifth Third Center building as the tallest structure in Toledo. Plans call for the plant to produce 1.9 million tons of briquettes by 2021.
Ms. Persico said the company is paying close attention to the governor’s guidelines and the project will resume “as soon as feasible”
Toledo Commissioner of Economic Development Brandon Sehlhorst is not aware of any other announced projects being halted. However, he said several projects not yet made public are in a holding pattern “until the dust settles.”
Other significant developments like the newly announced Amazon Inc. distribution center and mixed-use project in the old Colony neighborhood are progressing as planned. The city is working to keep the approval process moving along as much as possible.
“Amazon has to have a major site plan approved through the plan commission,” Mr. Sehlhorst said. “With that being a public meeting, that presents its own challenges when we’re canceling meetings. We’re trying to give projects a definitive schedule so they have some certainty on when they can get public approval to begin construction.”
Last month, the Plan Commission approved plans for Columbus developer Frank Kass and ProMedica to construct two buildings between ProMedica Parkway and Upton Avenue, including 262 apartments. The project also includes a four-story hotel.
“The hotel was supposed to start first, but sure as hell not in this economy,” Mr. Kass said. “Banks are loaded and looking to lend money, but they won’t lend it on projects that can’t work. An apartment project next to a highway ought to work, but a hotel project might have to wait.”
Mr. Kass said he hopes to start construction by the second or third quarter.
A pair of investors revealed plans a month ago for a robust development in the Vistula neighborhood that would include offices, restaurants, and a boardwalk. Fred Treuhaft feels fortunate he is still in the planning and design phase.
“They just postponed the deadline to apply for historic tax credits from March 30 to April 30, so that delays us a bit,” Mr. Treuhaft said. “But we weren’t planning to get started until we heard back. We’re gung-ho still. We’re fortunate we didn’t have a ribbon-cutting planned for next Tuesday.”
By the time Mr. Treuhaft plans to start restaurant construction in mid-2021, he hopes the economy has recovered.
The Vistula area is experiencing a resurgence after many decades of stagnation. Toledo Spirits Co. helped spur the neighborhood with a distillery and cocktail bar, although operations have mostly shut down due to the outbreak.
Co-founder Andrew Newby, who is also chairman of the Vistula Foundation, has fears about the future of the area.
“A lot of the momentum is gone at the moment,” he said. “For [Toledo Spirits], that gave us the flexibility of investing — now that’s all gone. It’s not a forever thing, but in the next six months how do we rebuild the momentum?”
Developer Brian McMahon said the infusion of the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill should stabilize markets in the short-term and return confidence. A project he’s involved with near Toledo Express Airport calls for new warehouse construction, and it is proceeding as planned.
He believes when the storm caused by the virus passes, there will be opportunities for northwest Ohio to capitalize.
“People are asking how our nation could be so unprepared that they couldn’t supply gloves and masks for people putting their lives on the line to protect us,” Mr. McMahon said. “From what I heard in the President’s speech, they will stockpile these products so we’re not so ill-prepared next time. There’s a major opportunity for northwest Ohio there. With our interstate systems and airport, we have tremendous logistics to come into play to provide those things.”
None of Mr. McMahon’s major projects are on hold. He feels the economy will come back stronger than it was before the crisis.
“The economy was so strong before it happened,” he said. “And there’s been pent-up demand sitting on the sidelines as we get through this virus. If you’re proactive and creative and prepare, you will benefit.”
Mr. Sehlhorst said Toledo’s tertiary market status comes with a high level of that sort of demand regardless, which could help when the economy normalizes.
“It’s our hope things bounce back to normal or even better, but it’s hard to predict with all this uncertainty in the market,” he said. “So many people have also been laid off and furloughed. But I think we’re cautiously optimistic things will bounce back.”
Toledo’s suburbs have seen substantial development in recent years, and perhaps none of them have benefited as much as Rossford.
Mayor Neil MacKinnon said Amazon’s 700,000-square-foot distribution center is still on track to open by August. Workers are having their temperatures taken each day before entering the site.
Project RED, an entertainment district adjacent to Hollywood Casino, is the main focus for the city right now. The $85 million project has hit a couple roadblocks between logistical problems caused by nearby I-75 bridge construction, and now the coronavirus outbreak.
“Construction and infrastructure was supposed to happen this construction season,” Mayor MacKinnon said. “Being an entertainment district, the tenants were going to be hotels and restaurants, and that’s all come to a screeching halt because of our situation.”
The mayor said small businesses in his town are hurting the most right now. But he remains positive about Rossford’s future prospects for economic development.
“We have the infrastructure and geography, and the relationships nationally and internationally to be successful,” he said. “When this all passes, we’re poised for success going forward.”
Maumee Mayor Richard Carr shares similar concerns about small businesses and restaurants, but said plans for the 60-acre Sidecut Crossings development are on schedule. The mixed-use project will include a hotel, senior housing, and cancer center.
Mayor Carr said the hotel tenant has not been revealed but is proceeding with construction despite the current market.
“I doubt you’ll see any expansion in the immediate future, but the hotel has been meeting with our administration last week and this week,” he said.
Mayor Carr added he expects the city to continue to attract development and believes the economy will recover quickly following the pandemic.
Posted By: Toledo Blade on March 29, 2020. For more information, please click here to read the source article.
To receive the In The Know from Signature Associates, please click here to be added to our mailing list.
« Back to Insights