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Elder-Beerman, Sears redevelopment unlikely for now, city official says

Fifteen months ago the city of Toledo soundly rejected tax abatements that would have helped a California firm redevelop the former Elder-Beerman property on Secor Road.

It appears the once-popular department store will remain vacant for the foreseeable future because tearing it down and erecting new retail space on the site is not economically feasible at this time.

“The economics are still the same, if not harder, because retail just got harder with the pandemic,” said Brandon Sehlhorst, the city’s Commissioner of Economic Development.

Mr. Sehlhorst said the Elder-Beerman property is a “brownfield site” that will first need asbestos mitigation before being demolished.

In January, 2020, the estimated cost for asbestos removal and demolition of the department store was $1.2 million. By contrast, when the former Lion store and Westgate Village Shopping center were torn down in 2007, the cost of demolition and asbestos removal was $1.6 million.

“It’s kind of similar to our former mall problems,” Mr. Sehlhorst said. “Who was going to come in and remediate Southwyck and tear it down?”

The 2009 cleanup and demolition of the Southwyck Shopping Center cost its landowner trio $2.6 million. That included a $1.5 million U.S. Environmental Protection Agency brownfield loan awarded to pay for asbestos removal.

Mr. Sehlhorst said federal funds may be needed to help remove the Elder-Beerman store because the current owners, the Niki Group of San Diego, say they cannot bear the cost of removal and construction of new retail buildings without charging tenants prohibitively high rents.

The city has made infrequent contact with the owners, who have indicated they do not have an immediate plans for the property.

In February, 2020, the company’s subsidiary, Niki Toledo I LLC, which owns the former department store at 3311 Secor, sought $978,000 in tax breaks to help cover the $1.2 million cost of ridding the property of asbestos. That plan was nixed by City Council by an 11-1 vote.

Mr. Sehlhorst said, meanwhile, no plans have been submitted, nor building permits requested, for either the Elder-Beerman store or the adjacent, vacant Sears department store and auto center owned by Seritage Growth Properties of New York.

Seritage is a real estate investment trust and has been marketing the Sears store at 3408 W. Central Ave., but it has no tenants. Local commercial real estate agents said they have not heard of any retailers interested in the sites.

“Both [the Elder-Beerman and Sears buildings] are huge dinosaur buildings that need to be addressed. But the problem is you have to put x amount of dollars into each site before you can start building a new building,” Mr. Sehlhorst said. “You put that against sites in Perrysburg and Springfield Township, and they just don’t have those challenges there.”

Mr. Sehlhorst said currently there is 468,000 square feet of vacant space along Secor.

“That’s larger than the Tower on the Maumee downtown, which is 350,000 square feet. It’s a lot of vacant space and most of it is those two buildings, Elder-Beerman and Sears,” Mr. Sehlhorst said.

“But that’s not most people’s impression of Secor. Most people think it’s thriving and don’t notice all the vacant space. The thing is, it’s more complex than meets the eye,” he added.


Posted By: The Toledo Blade on June 15, 2021.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

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