ConAgra redevelopment discussed

HURON The city has used input from Huron residents to generate recommendations for redevelopment of
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

HURON

The city has used input from Huron residents to generate recommendations for redevelopment of the ConAgra site.

John Girard of March 4th Associates, Huron, has led the city and interested residents through a series of forums to figure out just what they want and do not want to see happen with 10 northern acres of the property, which the state is turning over to the city.

"Let's do this in a way that generates revenue, not in a way that asks the citizens to pay more taxes," said Girard said, summing up the sentiment from two initial Voices and Choices public forums, which took place in July.

Monday night in the Cedar Point Center at BGSU Firelands, ideas from the previous forums were articulated in a summary of information outlining broad goals of any future redevelopment and outlining the next steps in the process.

Ideas suggested for the property included windmills for power generation, a shopping area resembling a downtown, a fisherman's wharf, a ferry service to Cedar Point and the islands, public swimming facilities and an aquarium, to name a few.

But with these ideas came concerns about the environment, financing the development without taxes, maintaining public access, and finding a way to generate revenue from the property.

From those ideas and concerns the city and Girard have came up with four recommendations for any potential developers:

1. The need for revenue generation for the city and the community.

2. The importance of environmentally sound construction and use.

3. Importance of public access and including the opportunity for public use that enhances the quality of life for the community.

4. The desire to accomplish a "Main Street" look and feel.

The city is now legally reviewing the deed held by a title company for the property it will receive when the transfer is complete.

Once the city accepts the deed, developers can be sought to submit specific plans for review.

"The state has given us the gift of waterfront property at essentially no cost," City Manager Andy White said. "We cannot develop this on our own.

"The city doesn't have the resources for something of this size. But for the city to be in control of 10 acres of waterfront property is a good revenue and business tool."

The forums help the city eliminate potential uses citizens aren't interested in and give developers an idea what types of proposals would be successful and socially embraced, Girard said.

"Without good input we can't make good decisions on city council," Mayor Terry Graham said.

In the next several weeks the city will generate short-term uses for the property to create a revenue stream to compensate for the expenses of insurance and upkeep.

In the meantime, the state is moving ahead with its boat ramp project on the southern half of the property.