Posted on Wednesday, 21st December 2016 by Robert Domini

VFW Post 4906 on Consaul Street

Peter Ujvagi was quoted in a front-page article by Tom Troy in the Sunday, December 11, 2016, Toledo Blade which brought back a flood of memories. First, it brought back the memory of Peter, his brothers and sisters along with other families such as the Takacs family when they arrived at St. Stephen’s School in 1956 following the Hungarian Revolution which was put down by the Soviet Union. The shocking violence in Budapest, caused large numbers of Hungarians to flee to the safety of the United States to neighborhoods such as Birmingham in East Toledo. In the article, Peter is quoted as saying that he “occasionally hangs out” at the club, and as a life-long Democrat and public servant, Peter was shocked to hear that many of the members were supporting Trump. Bear in mind that the Birmingham Hungarian neighborhood has always been a solid Democrat bastion. Bobby Kennedy visited Tony Packos and the Fritz Szollosi home when he was running for President. My father was a member of the club as well, and I can remember visiting there many times for social occasions. Yes, dad was a union worker as were all of my uncles and all of our neighbors. All were life-long Democrats, so it comes a shock that the old guard, what’s left of it, saw fit to shift their allegiance during this past election. Since this is principally a real estate newsletter, I would like to reflect on what Birmingham was when we were growing up. It was an amazing place and so much fun at Christmas time. The core of the old neighborhood was bounded by Consaul Street, Front Street, Whitmore Street and York Street although it extended about two blocks to the south of Consaul where we lived. There were several churches and a bar on every corner. There was a soda shop, a dress shop, barber shops, a bakery, a food store and many small stores which carried the basics for those who were willing to walk two blocks for a loaf of bread. Just about everything you could want could be found in Birmingham. 

On Christmas Eve, troops of young men, some who wore white gowns and cone-shaped red hats and others who wore scary furry masks and tails with cow bells attached roamed the neighborhood on behalf of two of the neighborhood churches. The players in the gowns and cone hats represented angels while the men in furry masks represented the shepherds. They were called “oregs”. The “oregs”, carried wooden axes which appeared to a ten-year old to be the real thing. They would perform a ceremony in the homes of parishioners, as well as every bar in the neighborhood, to celebrate Christmas. Along the way it was tradition that the oregs would be given a shot of whiskey to help keep them warm as they made the rounds. Then at the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, they performed their skit in church. The basic idea was that the angels tried to convince the oregs to go to Bethlehem to see baby Jesus. The custom was portrayed more for merriment purposes than for anything religious.

Dozens of kids would gather outside the school basement waiting on Christmas Eve for the scary creatures to come out and chase us, and that they did. Only one time one of them caught up to me and he gently hacked at my shins with the axe. We were totally terrified, but loving every minute of it. I’m sure Peter, Eddie and Louie were right there beside me as we enjoyed one of the wonderful Hungarian traditions.

One other observation I’d like to make. Many of the refugees were craftsmen in the old country, and they wanted nothing more than to continue their trade here in the United States. The Hungarian refugees took full advantage of their opportunities not long after their arrival, most starting small businesses. While my father and other neighborhood working men were contented with their full-time blue-collar jobs, the refugees nearly all struck out as entrepreneurs and many flourished. The Ujvagi brothers founded and operated for many years a manufacturing company on Miami Street in East Toledo while Louis Takacs started a butcher shop which still exists today. I remember another man starting his own tool and die business, which is what my father did for a living. In fairness to my dad, he was somewhat of an entrepreneur himself. When he came home from the Big War he had saved enough money to pay cash for two houses. One we lived in and the other became a rental. In addition to being a tool and die maker by day, he started a radio and tv repair business. In those days, he made house calls. In fact, he frequently took me along on his appointments.

Many of us still make our way to the old neighborhood to buy Takacs’ meats for our “Hunky” roasts in the summer where we roast jowl bacon on an open fire. It’s called, “sutni”. So, for all of my Hungarian friends and relatives, have a very Merry Christmas and never forget where you came from.

Great News for Toledo

In a December 14, 2016, story in the Blade, it was announced that Toledo rose 63 spots in the Milken Index which is a study that ranks cities in terms of their level of economic activity. Reasons given were strong auto sales and a strong housing market. Sales of the Jeep Cherokee and the Jeep Wrangler were cited as major factors in the improvement. The City now ranks 99th out of 200 large metro areas which may not sound very impressive, but surveys and reports prior to this had Toledo dead last in most categories. In fact, Toledo had the third largest gain of any of the 200 cities preceded only by Daytona and Richmond. The author of the survey, Ross DeVol, stated that it wasn’t just Jeep which propelled Toledo, it was the numerous auto parts suppliers in the area. Monroe, Michigan also benefitted from the same set of circumstances. It’s the old adage, when Detroit sneezes, Toledo catches pneumonia and vice versa. Other factors contributing to Toledo’s rise are the increased sales of residential housing as well as new construction. New Construction employment was up 11% in 2016. In yet another report, Headlight Data, Toledo’s GDP was found to have grown more than 25% in the last five years ranking #7 among medium-sized cities. Yet another area credited for Toledo’s growth is the health-care industry. So, Toledo is doing a whole lot better than most people realize. Part of the reason for a community such as Toledo showing big gains is that it is recovering from a very low level. The city’s unemployment rate has actually increased recently to 5.1% because more people are looking for work buoyed by a new optimism that they might find a job. A most encouraging movement is Toledo’s population loss has been slowing for the first time in decades. In 2015 Metro Toledo added 1,132 manufacturing jobs bringing the growth rate to 3% in 2015. Overall employment saw gains of 2.4%.

Toledo and other rust belt cities were hit particularly hard by the crash of 2008-09-10. Toledo and other similar cities have been battered by jobs moving to Mexico and elsewhere as President-Elect Trump has been saying, but a primary factor is that manufacturing has been changed dramatically by technology. The tool and die business, for example, was once done by hand by skilled craftsmen such as my dad. During the last 20-30 years, the same function is performed by computers and robots.

This report is in stark contrast to another just a few months ago in March where Toledo was ranked as the fourth most economically distressed city in the nation. At that time the study was based on economic conditions in the city between 2010 and 2013, but that was then and this is now. Toledo is being graded now on improvement since then which is indeed impressive.


What’s In Our Future?

Technology and the world’s knowledge base has grown more in the last 20 years than it has in the history of mankind, and the growth rate in knowledge and technology will accelerate at ever greater rates in the future. The rate of change typically experienced in ten years will occur in one or two years going forward. Some researchers believe that the supply and demand for tech goods will triple in the next ten years. Self-driving vehicles will become a reality. They already exist on an experimental basis. For example, Google has created a separate entity for development of the self-driving car. It is to be called Waymo LLC which is a part of a new overall Google entity called Alphabet, Inc. This week Waymo became the first company to test a self-driving car on public roads without a driver in the vehicle. In another experiment in Austin, Texas a legally blind man rode around in a car with no steering wheel or brake pedals.

The same holds true of our homes. New homes equipped with the latest in technology will be operated with a remote from within house and from half-way across the country. This is available and in existence now, but is not widely adopted thus far. Technology will enable cities, governments and corporations to safeguard their data much more effectively than they presently do. For example, in the near future, we will no longer be debating who stole the emails of a presidential candidate. Technology will be available to protect their data from hackers. On December 14, 2016, the CEOs of several technology companies including Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Intel, Tesla Motors, Facebook, Google, Oracle, IBM, Cisco and others met with President-Elect Trump for a conference on ways technology can help move our economy forward. Also discussed were ways in which the Trump administration can make conditions more hospitable for the tech industry, not least of which is a way to bring dollars back to the U.S. which are currently being sheltered overseas to avoid our high corporate tax rate.


Promedica Has Had a Very Busy Year
Promedica definitely wins the award for the single most active and important entity in the Toledo area for real estate development during the past year or two. The most noteworthy project is their move to Downtown Toledo into the Toledo Edison Steam Plant, the building which once supplied electricity to the downtown area, but closed more than 30 years ago. The building was completely gutted, and the two brick chimneys were demolished and replaced with slightly smaller steel replicas. An entirely new roof structure was added. For the winter, the building is buttoned up to allow workers to focus on the interior which is expected to be completed for a Summer 2017 opening. The various Promedica projects completed or begun in 2016 will be outlined below.

  • Edison Steam Plant: Again, the exterior shell and the roof are now complete and work has moved to the interior. The Steam Plant renovation will cost a total of $46 million when all is said and done. It will house 500 employees when it opens in July next year. The roof is said to be of wood panels to mirror the original terracotta tiles which originally covered the building. The original brick façade will be maintained and the massive arched windows will also remain. The two original smokestacks had to be removed due to their condition, but they have been replaced with steel replicas which are slightly smaller than the original.
  • Key Bank Building: The Key Bank Building will house between 400 and 450 employees when finished this coming summer. It will feature a 5,500-square-foot YMCA on the ground floor and a coffee shop with an open-air feeling.
  • Toledo Edison Building: Promedica paid $6 million for the former Toledo Edison Building which will continue to be a multi-tenanted building with one of its tenants being Key Bank. It has an underground parking garage with 232 spaces. This building is expected to house up to 500 Promedica employees. It is and will continue to be connected to the Key Bank Building by an overhead walkway which will be upgraded. When the move is made this summer, approximately 1,500 Promedica employees will reside in the 3-building complex.
  • Fort Industry Square: Promedica has also purchased for $4 million 13 of the 16 parcels in Fort Industry Square bordered by Summit Street, Jefferson Avenue, Monroe Street and Water Street. It is comprised of several buildings mostly built about 125 years ago. Total usable size is 89,000 square feet. The future use of this building is as yet undermined.
  • Surface Parking behind Fort Industry Square: Promedica paid $2.75 million for the surface parking lot.
  • Starlight Plaza: The former Starlight Plaza has been razed and a new 3-story 230,000-square-foot building erected on Monroe Street. It’s all brick and glass and will house 130 physicians who will see 1,500 patients per day.
  • Toledo Hospital: Toledo Hospital is in the process of adding a $350 million replacement tower on North Cove Boulevard. It will be 13 stories and will contain 302 beds. A total of 1,000 construction jobs are being generated by this project.
  • Marina District: Promedica purchased the 69-acre Marina District along the river in East Toledo from Chinese investors Dashing Pacific for $3.8 million. The land will be sold to the Metroparks System for the same price. The parks system will invest an additional $6 million to turn it into a river-front park.
Dana Corporation Expands Headquarters Building and Builds New Axle Plant
Dana Corporation has completed a 40,000-square-foot expansion of its headquarters building in Monclova Township. The expansion was completed in order to bring 200 employees into the facility. Total costs were estimated to be $7 to $10 million.

Also, Dana is investing in a new $70 million axle plant on the former Jeep site on Overland Parkway in the Overland Parkway Industrial Park developed by the Toledo Lucas County Port Authority. The facility will total 300,000 square feet of manufacturing space when completed. The plant is reportedly being built to accommodate increasing production of the Jeep Wrangler at the Toledo Jeep Assembly Complex located just three miles away. Within the next few years, the plant is expected to employ up to 300. This is very good news for Toledo with manufacturing jobs coming back rather than leaving.


Toledo’s Jeep Assembly Plant Plans Expansion

An important announcement was made in July 2016, that FCA is planning to invest $700 million in the Toledo Assembly Complex to prepare for full production of the 2017 Wrangler and the Wrangler Pick-Up Truck. Approximately 700 jobs will be added. Earlier this year Sergio Marchionne said that employment would remain unchanged. The City of Toledo has invested $5 million to prepare land for expansion of FCA or its suppliers. The City also reportedly intends to provide an additional $825,000 for roadways near the plant. The plant has received awards for its work quality.


The Andersons
The Andersons has just recently moved into its new world headquarters building in Monclova Township built on land formerly part of Brandywine Country Club. The company invested $54 million to construct the building which sits on 63 acres. The Andersons is now a Fortune 500 company, ranked number 453 with annual sales of $4.2 billion. An estimated 550 employees now work in the new building which is visible from I-475 at Salisbury Road.

About the Author

This newsletter is brought to you by Robert Domini, MBA, MAI, president of Continental Valuations, Inc. located at 111 W. Second Street, Perrysburg. Continental Valuations has been serving your commercial appraising needs in Northwestern Ohio and throughout Ohio and Southern Michigan for 28 years. Our staff of highly qualified, certified appraisers stands ready to serve your appraisal needs. Please have a very happy holiday season whatever your religious affiliation and everyone please have a very Happy New Year.

Best regards,

Continental Valuations, Inc.

Robert D. Domini, MBA, MAI

Certified in Ohio, Michigan and Florida

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