Could it finally be happening? Could the expansive grassy knoll in East Toledo actually become a Marina District, and the Road to Nowhere finally lead to somewhere?
The recent announcement that there is finally a funded plan to convert the wasteland into a residential and commercial development sure seems promising. But we’ve been here before, haven’t we.
Yes, yes we have. As a bit of reminder lest we get too slap happy and congratulatory, here’s a quick round of trivia. See what you remember about the trials and travails of redeveloping this promising stretch of Toledo’s riverfront.
1. Which Toledo mayors have assured us the Marina District development was imminent?
A. He Who Shall Not Be Named
B. HWSNBN redux
C. Mike Bell
D. Mike Collins E. Paula HH
Answer: F. All of the above, going way back to the turn of the Twenty-First Century. Jack Ford also had some musings about the development, but with Smilin’ Jack, nothing ever quite felt imminent. More like creeping sleepily along.
2. What developers did these Mayors have lined up to get this done?
A. Frank Kass, well-heeled developer of historic districts in Columbus
B. Larry Dillin, un-heeled assembler of other folks’ wealth and developer of Levis Commons
C. Shadowy investors from the firm Dashing Pacific
D. Promedica, with some participation by the Toledo Area Metroparks
Answer. E. All of the above. The whole sordid story began with HWSNBN touting a glorious redevelopment in typical Finkly fashion, full of bravado and hyperbole. That involved Kass, well-respected developer. There has followed tens of million of dollars of public money to assemble the parcels and clean up massive environmental problems.
When Kass couldn’t get the colossal project done yesterday, he was dismissed. Dillin was likewise brought in and then fired because he couldn’t deliver immediately, while HWSNBN created the most expensive stretch of road in three states to connect the no to the where. Bell brought in Dashing Pacific, with a lavish set of plans and a ceremonial ground breaking featuring a large rock with Chinese characters no one has ever translated. Perhaps they said, “Sorry, suckers,” because that ground breaking got as far as the Finkly road. Which is to say, nowhere.
Collins brushed off the DP investors, and promised that he had other funding for the development. At least, he promised it once the city exercised its buy-back clause in the original sales contract, triggered because the DP was a no-go. That never happened, and the site has languished until Promedica bought it last year.
Now there are fresh-faced plans featuring an older and wiser Frank Kass to develop the land, which will be a mix of commercial and residential development bordering a large new riverfront Metropark. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
3. What developments have been promised at the Marina District?
A. Mixture of residential and
commercial, plus a Metropark
B. The new Bass Pro superstore
C. An outdoor amphitheater
D. The new arena and home of the Toledo hockey franchise (the then-unnamed successor to the Storm)
E. A marina
Answer. There’s a pattern here. F. All of the above. HWSNBN even took the head of Bass Pro on a helicopter ride over the area to convince him to build there. Alas, the new store was built out where the Rossford amphitheater never got built. Of course, neither did the amphitheater at the Marina District. But we’re ahead of ourselves again.
4. Which of the above have actually been built, or are included in the current plans?
Answer. A, and a sad, neglected E. The new development envisions commercial and residential space plus a new Metropark. The arena, once promised to East Toledo after a vote, got built downtown instead. The marina sits forlorn and untended at the far end of the property, waiting for something to happen, for all these intervening years.
5. What is the difference between the number of artist’s renditions and the number of ground breakings at the Marina District?
Answer. We have no idea, but there have been a whole lot of the former, and only one of the latter. See “Chinese rock” above and below.
6. Where is the infamous and legendary Chinese rock?
A. In Mike Bell’s bedroom
B. The same place as Dashing Pacific’s artist renditions
C. The same place as Mike Bell’s political future
D. On the road to nowhere Answer. Again, we have no idea, but it’s probably
E. All of the above. Which is to say, pretty much nowhere.
Answers C and D are the same, anyway.
7. What’s the funniest thing that has ever happened at the Marina District?
A. The plan by Collins to save one of the old smokestacks by only blowing the top off it
B. The fact that the demolition folks were given a tolerance for taking off the top that allowed them to blow most of it off, leaving it too short to save.
C. The massive dust cloud that blew over East Toledo after said stack blew its top
D. The attempt to demolish the short, stubby remnant of the stack after this whole debacle
Answer. Oh, yes indeedy do, it’s E. All of the above. This was a hilarious example of governmental bungling at its lowest point. Which is saying a lot.
Bonus essay question.
Will the Marina District development actually happen this time? If so, what’s so
Sample answer. We sure hope so. It seems manageable in scale and the economic climate is right, as downtown development is on the upswing. And there’s no Finkly anger management issues or other delusions of grandeur to get in the way this time around. Perhaps we will have one more ground breaking. This time followed months later by a ribbon cutting.
Maybe in the meantime we can locate that Chinese rock.