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Toledo delays action to fund proposed shopping plaza renovation project

Posted By: Toledo Blade on July 2, 2023.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

Toledo postponed acting on a request that would help to fund a $5 million capital improvement project being proposed for the tired and largely vacant Swayne Field Plaza.

Toledo City Council was asked to approve a request to underwrite an $816,000 loan through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for that central Toledo project but put off until July 18 taking action on the issue.

The plaza, which is a 7.4-acre parcel near Detroit Avenue and Monroe Street west of downtown in the Englewood Revitalization Strategy Boundaries, hasn’t seen significant investment in decades. The proposal to renovate the plaza was discussed in June during a Toledo City Council Neighborhoods and Community Development meeting.

“It’s in a neighborhood where the market really has not worked, so we have cobbled together funding sources from a variety of places to do this very important project,” Rosalyn Clemens, director of the department of housing and community development, said at the meeting.

The privately owned shopping center was purchased in 1994 by John Kim for $1.4 million and in 1995 was transferred to the family corporation, Swayne Field Shopping Center, Inc.

If the city approves underwriting the federal loan, terms of the 20-year agreement stipulate that now property owner Un Young Chin of Temperance would be responsible for paying the annual debt service of $62,679 or about $5,000 per month. Should default happen, the city would take over the property and the responsibility for paying back the loan. The agreement falls in line with the section 108 loan guidelines and directives through HUD, Ms. Clemens said during the June 12 meeting.

“There’s more than enough loan to value to accommodate this debt. We believe this is a good investment,” Ms. Clemens said.

Ms. Chin, who also addressed the committee, said she is confident she can fulfill her debt obligation.

“It’s really a great opportunity. I’ve been thinking about upgrading the building, but it’s too much for me so I appreciate the cooperation of all of you. I’m really excited about this project,” Ms. Chin said.

While councilman Vanice Williams is pleased with proposed upgrades to the shopping plaza, which is located in her district, she voiced reservations about the loan obligation payment.

“My concern is the fact that it is a high debt service of almost $63,000 for the owner to pay a year when we don’t have a guarantee of who the renters will be,” she said.

In addition to the HUD loan, other funding sources to renovate the shopping center would include $1.5 million of earmarked federal community project dollars that were secured through U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur’s office; $1 million carryover in Community Development Block Grant funds from last year; and a $28,000 grant from the Toledo Community Foundation.

A $1.9 million Department of Energy Enhancement and Innovation Grant could also be administered to Neighborhood Housing Services of Toledo to fund the plaza renovation project. The money would be used to establish the Toledo Healthy Homes Training Center there. If the deal is approved — lease negotiations are under way — the training center would serve as a regional hub to provide training needs for the weatherization assistance program. The program offers energy efficiency training and other services to weatherization assistance program providers as well as local contractors used by the program, Ms. Clemens said.

Input for the renovation project has involved multiple community meetings and an online survey. If all of the funding comes together, phase one of the project, which could begin next spring, would include parking lot and facade improvements, infrastructure improvements, plumbing and electrical upgrades, fencing repair, landscape and streetscape improvements, and feature lighting.

Future development of the site also calls for a housing development on the side facing Monroe Street, Ms. Clemens said.

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