Michigan firm buys third Toledo building; Health club may be added to Lake Erie Center

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

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A Michigan company has bought its third downtown Toledo building and is considering putting a health club in it.

Lansing-based Eyde Co. bought One Lake Erie Center last week for $1.25 million, Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said. The five-story, white stone structure joins the Fiberglas Tower and the Toledo Trust building as Eyde properties downtown.

“These people have faith in downtown Toledo, and they should be applauded for that,” Mr. Finkbeiner said.

Representatives of Eyde Co. did not return phone calls seeking comment last night.

Mr. Finkbeiner said company representatives have expressed interest in establishing a health club in the building. Eyde officials earlier had said they might put a health club in the Fiberglas Tower, which is formally known as the HyTower.

The mayor has said that a downtown health club is one of his administration’s top development priorities.

The Eyde family has some experience in the health club field. The company owns the land where the Michigan Athletic Club is in East Lansing. The club has more than 9,000 members and 300,000 square feet of space.

The city of Toledo, ProMedica, and Mercy Health Partners are funding a $30,000 marketing and feasibility study to determine what shape a downtown health club should take.

One Lake Erie Center was built in 1928 as Lamson’s, then Toledo’s finest department store. But as shoppers shifted their business from downtown to malls and shopping centers, Lamson’s declined and shut down in 1976.

In 1978, the building was purchased by developer Lloyd Colenback, who converted it into an office building and renamed it One Lake Erie Center. Its major tenant was Owens-Corning, which had outgrown its offices at the nearby Fiberglas Tower.

But when OC built its world headquarters on the west bank of the Maumee River, it pulled its 230 employees out of One Lake Erie, leaving Mr. Colenback – the former head of Downtown ToledoVision known as “Mr. Downtown” – in financial trouble.

In 1997, State Street Bank of Boston foreclosed on the building. The bank bought it outright in April, 1998, for $1.8 million.

Eyde Co. purchased the Fiberglas Tower and Toledo Trust building in January, 1998, for a combined $4.5 million. They still are vacant, although several businesses are open in the street-level retail space between the two buildings.

In January, the company announced plans to turn the Toledo Trust building into apartments or condominiums and to renovate the Fiberglas Tower to make the building more attractive to high-tech businesses.

The Eydes were not the first suitors for One Lake Erie. Dave Ball, who owns the Ohio Building and the Gardner Building downtown, last year offered city officials a deal: he would buy One Lake Erie if the city would move its engineering department into the building, giving him a reliable tenant.

The city of Toledo has been looking for a way to move its engineers out of Government Center, where they occupy about half the 17th floor.

Mr. Finkbeiner said last night that where the engineers go likely will depend on which developer agrees to make improvements on the Woolworth, Kresge, and Ken’s Flower Shop buildings on Adams Street.

Those buildings, widely considered eyesores, are across the street from the Valentine Theatre, which is scheduled to open in October. Downtown advocates consider the theater the cornerstone of any downtown renaissance.

The mayor said that whoever agrees to revitalize those buildings will get to have the city’s engineers as a tenant. Thus far, the Eydes have expressed interest, as has Randy Alexander, the Wisconsin developer who turned the former Lasalle’s department store into apartments and is renovating the Hillcrest Hotel.

Before the engineers move out, the city will have to find a substitute tenant for the 17th floor of Government Center, which is owned by the state of Ohio.