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Vacant Sears store at Westgate to be demolished; area to be redeveloped

The owners of the Westgate Village Shopping Center plan to purchase the vacant Sears building and redevelop the property, the company’s CEO told The Blade.

Liz Holland, the CEO of Chicago-based Abbell Credit Corp., which owns the Westgate plaza, said the vacant building will be razed and the company will evaluate various redevelopment proposals for the site.

“We’ve been their neighbor since 1956, and we feel like we are probably in the best position to redevelop it,” she said.

The company already owns the parking lot that wraps around the building, she added.

“It made the most sense for us to be the logical buyer,” Ms. Holland said.

The purchase price will not be disclosed until the sale is finalized.

There are no plans to purchase the vacant Elder-Beerman building, which sits adjacent to the Sears building, she said.

Lagging sales led the once-bustling store to close in 2017. Sears opened the 219,000-square-foot store in 1960. If the deal is finalized, Westgate Village would have the ability to develop approximately 22 acres at that site.

“We are very excited to know that they will soon be the new owners of that site,” said Brandon Sehlhorst, the city’s commissioner of economic development.

Two years 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. Since then, Mr. Sehlhorst has worked to redevelop both the Sears and Elder-Beerman sites, but dealing with two vacant functionally obsolete buildings is both challenging and expensive.

It will cost approximately $1.8 million to demolish and remediate the Sears building. The city has partnered with Westgate Village in applying for state grants to offset 80 percent of those costs and it is likely that the city could offer additional support by way of tax abatements, Mr. Sehlhorst said.

“Given the rise of construction costs and inflation, there is a need to address that and find some sort of assistance to offset the major investment that these developers would have to make at that site, so this is entirely warranted,” he said.

The hope is that the area will transform into a mixed-use development of business, residential, and retail.

“Our vision for that area is that it would be one big master plan development that all talks to each other and functions as one development,” he said. “This is really a major opportunity for the city to reenvision that whole area.”

The Secor Road corridor near Central Avenue has become one of the most desirable commercial markets in the area, said commercial developer Mario Kiezi, who recently paid approximately $1 million to purchase Unity of Toledo Spiritual Center, a nondenominational church on Executive Parkway.

The church building sits on a four-acre parcel lot, which appealed to Mr. Kiezi because of its proximity to Secor Road. Pending site approval in June, Mr. Kiezi plans to raze the church and redevelop the site with the addition of multiple businesses including a Culver’s fast food restaurant, which has already committed to opening a new restaurant on one of the available parcels, he said.

“It says a lot about that area to have a national tenant willing to go off of Secor Road in order to capture that market,” Mr. Kiezi said.

The church’s spiritual leader Natalie Vorst said that it was a good financial opportunity for the 50-member congregation to sell the property and plans are under way to eventually relocate the church to a new site. In the meantime, services are taking place at the Maumee Indoor Theatre, Ms. Vorst said.

The Westgate area has remained high performing while other areas of the commercial real estate market have experienced a more tumultuous run due in part to a changing retail market and the pandemic, said Harlan Reichle, president and chief executive of Reichle Klein, a commercial real estate agency.

“It’s an outstanding site from a real estate perspective,” he said.

Proximity to multiple, financially strong neighborhoods, as well as easy interstate access has lent to that strength, he said.

“You’ve got two buildings sitting there doing nothing, so to keep that momentum there it is ideal that this site will get put back into use productively,” he said. “I think that that was always in the cards, I think it was just a question of what, who, and when that happened.”


Posted By: The Toledo Blade on March 23, 2022.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

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