According to Sandusky City Manager Matt Kline the Marina District is not dead. But it sure is sleeping and maybe its slumber is a good thing for Sandusky.
The plan to develop the waterfront, as presented to voters, seemed just the thing to bolster Sandusky’s sagging economy. Development of prime property to its full potential is still a good idea.
But, as Sandusky resident Sharon Johnson put it, “We are in way over our heads in this ... . Someone promised us pie in the sky and when you start working the figures you don’t have the money.”
In the lag time between the presentation of the proposal to voters and the present, much has changed in the world, in Ohio and in Sandusky. Real estate values have plummeted, the lending market is inching its doors closed and families, businesses and cities have had to tighten their belts.
This does not mean the waterfront development is not feasible. It means we must go into any agreements with our eyes wide open, not shaded by rose-colored glasses.
We know the city building needs attention. We know hotels do well in this area. How much more sense does it make to develop that property with a hotel first and move city offices elsewhere? The city already owns a number of properties suitable for building a new city hall. This maneuver would provide taxes from Tax Increment Financing to help move public improvements forward. Once the hotel was complete, bed taxes would provide additional income to the city.
Additional development in accordance to the developer’s plan could follow. If, in the end, it all worked out as planned, Sandusky would have the total package that makes optimum use of the properties. But, if any of the project gets stalled — or worse — by a weak economy, at least we wouldn’t be stuck with unsold condos and a decrepit city building.
Sure, the commissioners are disappointed by the bursting of the gold coast bubble.
We all are.
But, Kline is right to re-examine the original plan and consider alternatives. After all, it is our city. We have to look out for what is best for us. We’ve had the pretty promises of a former city manager. Now let’s encourage this city manager and the commissioners to see what will really work for Sandusky.