Toledo downtown development years within the making

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Fifth Third Field and Huntington Center paved the way for ProMedica, Hensville, and other businesses. And what lies ahead promises to keep the momentum going.

TOLEDO, Ohio – COVID-19 has negatively impacted many people economically. But in a sense from a development point of view Things were speeding up somehow. That’s a big reason why Northwest Ohio The largest city is in a process of transformation.

Maybe in 50 years we will look back and say, “Yes, then it happened.”

But before we get to our future, we need to focus a little on our past and take a look at when Toledo previously went through a renaissance.

In the early 1900s, downtown Toledo included names like Tiedtkes. It was the department store that 85-year-old lifelong Toledoan Joann Vanderpool looked forward to every visit.

“You could do anything to fix your shoes and buy a wedding dress,” said Vanderpool.

She remembers when going downtown was an event.

“There was no other place,” she said. “There were no shopping malls, there was no internet, there was no television.”

According to Vanderpool, downtown was the place to get your meat for Sunday dinner, pay your bills, and buy a loaf of bread.

But over the years the Toledo she knew changed and never came back. Not in the way she knew.

Paul Toth is the President of ConnecToledo. It’s an organization that markets everything Glass City has to offer. And right now, he says, the sales pitch is all about hoping for what’s to come and building a new Toledo, because what’s in the past is over.

“Toledo grew up early and we have seen this renaissance – the industrialization of America,” said Toth. “And Toledo was right there. We were a big city. And unfortunately we had a kind of downtown that wasn’t ready for the 70s and 80s and we saw a downturn.”

But he says efforts are back to create another prime and make downtown a vibrant place for people to live and shop.

And the dates are undeniable. Investment numbers have been astonishing over the past five years. $ 75 million was invested in renovating the steam facility to create ProMedica’s headquarters. US $ 40 million was spent renovating the Renaissance Hotel. Working on Tower on the Maumee – $ 40 million, Berdan Building – $ 35 million, in Hensville – $ 20 million, Toledo Lucas County Main Library – $ 12 million.

And that’s only a quarter of the billion dollars spent in the past five years.

Vanderpool may be 85 years old, but she says she isn’t a Curmudgeon against progress. As she spoke to us and looked at the current construction on Summit Street, she said, “I was here when it was what it was … and it was great. I wouldn’t get rid of my memories for nothing. But will I dis this? No.”

Local guides say rThe introduction of the steam power plant at the ProMedica headquarters in 2017 brought jobs, enthusiasm and dynamism and triggered a shock wave in terms of development and investments. This can be felt in the streets of the city center.

Randy Oostra, President and CEO of ProMedica, says $ 1 billion has been invested in Toledo over the past five years. And he says there will be another $ 1 billion in the next five years.

“I spoke to someone last week who was withdrawn – they grew up here – they were on the east coast,” Oostra said. “They came back a year or two ago and said, ‘What the hell happened?’ This idea that we can do anything we want – we can become a tech community, we can do the things we’re good at – there are a lot of things we can do, and if we keep working together, we can We will achieve things in five years that people did not think possible. “

With the renovations at the Park Inn, SeaGate Convention Center, and Fort Industry Square, things are in motion. Now attention is turning to the next potential epicenter of growth, the next shock wave at the four corners of Madison Avenue and Huron Street, which includes the Nicolas and Spitzer buildings.

“We believe the same thing can happen there if we re-energize this corner and redevelop these buildings,” said Toth. “There are buildings within two blocks that are also empty. We are 100 percent sure that the same will happen in these blocks as on the riverside. “

Oostra says for the first time in Toledo history that there is a large, dedicated business community that works with the county, city, port authority and others to say, “Let’s all work together.”

But Toledo’s best days go beyond the downtown aesthetic. According to Oostra, Toledo’s neighborhoods are critical to the success of this renaissance.

“We’re already talking about the closest neighborhood,” he said. “Where are we going next? Who works? Where could the gaps be? Who are the partners? And I think this is a secret here. We just have to keep focusing on the different parts of the city. “

Toth says he’s not sure what has changed or what has turned, other than the fact that people are really feeling good about Toledo and the dynamic. He believes they want to be part of something that is moving in the right direction. Toth points out that Detroit went through it, Cleveland had its renaissance too, and he says it is now Toledo’s turn to turn the script around.

ConnecToledo officials say to keep an eye on the Middlegrounds, Warehouse District, and Uptown, and they say announcements regarding future development are just around the corner. According to ProMedica’s Randy Oostra, Toledo’s progress must be based on good health, solid educational opportunities, and safe, affordable housing. He says that kind of stability can provide job opportunities and a stronger local economy.

For Joann Vanderpool, her recent trip to the city center, like many others who have lived here all their lives, was a trip back in time. But with each new trip, she says, it serves as a preview of what will come for her downtown and how it will take shape for generations to come.

PREPARE THE STAGE

When boats docked in the Maumee River and people gathered at Promenade Park in the summers of the 1980s and 90s, Lucas County commissioner Pete Gerken thought this might be the heyday of downtown.

Longtime Toledoans may have fond memories of “Party in the Park” or “Rally by the River”, but downtown Toledo has turned into something Gerken always envisioned.

“We had to make the city center a city center 365 days a year,” he said.

For the past 20 years, the area has been home to Fifth Third Field, the Huntington Center, ProMedica headquarters, Hensville, and a metropark. Dozens of bars, restaurants, and small businesses also popped up.

Bringing the Mud Hens downtown was one of the first large dominoes to fall to spur revitalization.

In addition to securing funding and a location for Fifth Third Field, the commissioners had to convince Northwest Ohioans to venture downtown to watch baseball. The stadium was completed in 2002 for $ 39.2 million and served as the launch pad for development in the warehouse district.

The fifth third field was an instant hit as fans flocked to the stadium and visited nearby bars and restaurants. Five years later, the foundation stone was laid for another large project just a few blocks north between Jefferson and Madison Streets.

The Huntington Center was built for the walleye and major concerts for $ 105 million and opened in 2009.

“The teams needed the community to give them new life,” said Commissioner Tina Wozniak. “When that happened, everyone was really excited to see both of them in great places in a community that supports both teams 100 percent. It brought so much excitement, and that was before we had all this life in downtown Toledo Look at us now. “

The 2006 Fifth Third Field hosted the International League’s All-Star Game, and the Huntington Center featured major artists such as Elton John, The Eagles and Jason Aldean.

Gerken says he always knew downtown had the potential to be a major attraction, but it took developments like stadiums to get the ball rolling.

“We got out of that downturn where people kind of forgot downtown, and now it’s where people want to be,” said Gerken. “It’s safe, it’s clean, there are places to live, there are things for all ages to do. And it just gets better.”

The downtown dynamic continues today with projects such as the rebuilding of Summit Street and the overhaul of the Convention Center.

The $ 70 million convention center project includes a 200-room Hyatt hotel, a 1,000-seat ballroom, and a new exterior. ProMedica has allocated $ 5 million to the project and will receive naming rights for the new facility.

Wozniak said these types of projects will boost Toledo for years to come.

“We put hundreds of millions of dollars on the public side, but the private side added hundreds of millions more to really make downtown a part of our community and create the conditions for a bright future,” said you.

“Little by little, so many great things are happening.”