By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer
The owners of the Toledo Trust building, the city’s oldest skyscraper and vacant since 1991, want to turn it into another downtown apartment complex, they said yesterday.
“We want to see a residential use for the building,” said Sam Eyde, chief executive officer of The Eyde Co., the Lansing-based firm that owns the building.
Mr. Eyde made the statement at a news conference yesterday at which he and Mayor Carty Finkbeiner showed off the completion of lobby renovations at the former Fiberglas Tower, also owned by the Eydes.
The Toledo Trust building, built in 1916, once was Ohio’s tallest. It was the tallest in Toledo for 17 years.
But, with the exception of a ground-level restaurant, it has been vacant since 1991. The Eyde Co. bought the building, along with the Fiberglas Tower, for $4.5 million a year ago.
Mr. Eyde said that he hopes to announce the building’s conversion within 90 days. He said the building would be renovated into about 100 units, which could be either rental units or condominiums.
An official announcement won’t be made for a few months, while the company examines issues such as zoning rules and potential tax credits available to the project. “We don’t want to make an announcement now and have to change our mind in a few months,” said Larry Steed, the company’s director of marketing.
If it becomes apartments, the Toledo Trust building would join the LaSalle, the Commodore Perry, the Hillcrest, and Water Street Station as downtown-area buildings converted or being converted into residential buildings.
Some, including members of the city council, have expressed concerns that the market for downtown living might be nearly saturated.
But Mr. Eyde said that isn’t true. “Our marketing studies say there is still a market. Everything that’s opened has filled up.”
Mr. Finkbeiner said he would welcome the Toledo Trust renovations.
“There is not a higher priority than filling up the vacant buildings in downtown Toledo,” he said. He said the city would be willing to work with the Eydes to get the building filled.
The Eydes and Mr. Finkbeiner expressed hope about the future of the former Fiberglas Tower, now known as the HyTower. The owners have determined that there are no major environmental or asbestos problems in the building, Toledo’s second tallest.
Along with the Toledo Trust building, the completely vacant HyTower is a big contributor to Toledo’s having the nation’s third highest downtown vacancy rate.
City and company officials said that rumors of environmental problems had plagued the building for years. “Nobody’s going to walk out of here glowing,” Mr. Eyde said.
It was the home of Owens Corning until the company moved into its Middlegrounds world headquarters in 1996.
The building will be getting yet another new name soon, as owners try to change the building’s image into a technological hub. The building is wired well for technology-oriented businesses, Mr. Eyde said, but it will soon be readied for the cutting edge in technology.
“We’ll have the highest speeds, the best fiberoptics, and most capability,” Mr. Eyde said.
He announced two new tenants in the retail space between the two buildings. Toledo Edison will be moving its walk-in service center from its Erie Street location, and UPN affiliate WNGT-TV, Channel 48, will open its offices in about a week.
“We felt it was perfect for a television broadcast facility,” said station owner Marty Miller. “We’ll be taking advantage of the fiber optics.”
In addition, Mr. Eyde and Mr. Finkbeiner unveiled new exterior lighting – to be illuminated within 90 days – that features blue neon strips up the building’s south side and around its top floor.