Port board OKs plans for old Jeep site, Ironville Dock

By David Patch
Courtesy of the Associated Press

August 23, 2013

The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority approved resolutions Thursday to proceed on building warehouses at its two major “brownfield” redevelopment sites.

The board of directors awarded a $1,081,000 contract to Anderzack-Pitzen Construction Inc. to install utilities, a foundation, and other site improvements for a warehouse in East Toledo at the former Gulf Oil refinery site, now known as Ironville Dock.

The board’s next item of business was approval of a lease with a limited liability corporation to be created by Ed Harmon, of the Harmon Family Development Corp., that will build a 100,000 square-foot building on the former Jeep factory site in central Toledo.

Initially Harmon was to be the developer for the entire Ironville Dock project.

That 35-year lease will provide the port authority rent in the form of 50 percent of the building’s net income after debt service and operating costs are paid. One-fifth of that net income will be set aside for building maintenance or to cover cash-flow shortages if income fails to cover debt service.

“This is a risk we’re taking, but we decided to take that risk so we could try to get the pump going on this piece of property,” said William Carroll, the port board’s chairman.

Board member A. Bailey Stanbery, meanwhile, said each project “means a lot for the port authority, and means a lot for employment, whether it’s at the seaport or at Overland Park.”

Further action will be needed before either building is built.

The Anderzack-Pitzen contract does not include building construction, which will be covered by a second contract that port staff said is likely to be presented to the directors during their Sept. 26 meeting.

The port board in June approved a $2.28 million contract with Rudolph/?Libbe Inc. of Lake Township covering site preparation and building construction, but an ensuing legal review upon which the award was conditioned revealed that confusion in the bid specifications posed a litigation risk.

The Harmon lease, meanwhile, covers only the initial “spec” warehouse site, not the unbuilt balance of the 111-acre former Jeep site as envisioned by a 10-year development agreement the port directors approved in April, but was never signed.

Port President Paul Toth said that under the agreement approved Thursday, Mr. Harmon’s firm is “going to do what he does best, which is build buildings. … Our goal is to fill this building up, and come back and do this again.”

The agreement calls for the port authority to finance construction, expected to cost about $5.33 million. A financing plan will likely be presented to port directors next month, followed by groundbreaking in October, Mr. Toth said.

About 7.2 acres at the property’s south end has been leased to Airgas Inc. for construction of a 40,000-square-foot distribution center, with a purchase provision to kick in once state proceedings for the site’s environmental cleanup are complete.

A port authority concept for the former factory site calls for a row of warehouse or light-manufacturing buildings on its eastern side, bordering the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks.

Port officials plan a ceremony Tuesday morning to dedicate the industrial park to the workers at the Jeep complex situated there for nearly a century, until 2006, when DaimlerChrysler moved the last operations to the Jeep complex on Stickney Avenue.

A plaque in their honor will be affixed to the sole smokestack, bearing the Overland Motors name, left standing after other structures were torn down.

“It’s a really good way to kick off the project,” said James Tuschman, chairman of the port directors’ facilities and development committee. “We’ll dedicate the site to the men and women who toiled away making Jeeps.”

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.