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Published: Wednesday, 5/28/2014 - Updated: 1 year ago

Warehouse District on the rise

Preservationists: Downtown area architecture the real thing

Hugh Grefe Hugh Grefe

Popular shopping destinations such as the Town Center at Levis Commons in Perrysburg, The Shops at Fallen Timbers in Maumee, and Easton Town Center in Columbus are part of a new era of suburban design, with old-time architecture and a town center theme.

But to Hugh Grefe, they’re also an argument for historic preservation, borrowing from a traditional warehouse district’s ambiance.

Mr. Grefe, senior executive director of Local Initiatives Support Group’s Toledo office, said at a news conference Tuesday the differences between them and Toledo’s once-decrepit warehouse district are narrowing.

“Aren’t they really making a pretend warehouse district?” he asked. “Well, we’ve got the right thing here.”

Mr. Grefe spoke at an event recognizing May as National Preservation Month. He and other speakers predict the warehouse district’s comeback is only beginning. Property values have jumped and full-time residents have grown from about seven to more than 700 in that part of downtown Toledo.

Barely a dozen years have passed since the warehouse district was a nondescript collection of vacant buildings. It has come on strong because of dedicated visionaries who believe in historic preservation and the buy-local movement enough to “see the silk purse in what everyone else sees as the sow’s ear,” Mr. Grefe said.

Charlene Scott, general manager at Levis Commons, was not part of the news conference. But she told The Blade in a telephone interview she is pleased to see downtown Toledo’s warehouse district making a comeback.

Suburban shopping centers offer something different, she said. But she said she too sees a need for historic preservation in cities that can support that.

The momentum for the warehouse district’s surge began in the spring of 2002 with the opening of Fifth Third Field. Joe Napoli, Toledo Mud Hens and Toledo Walleye general manager, recalled at the news conference how there was some angst about leaving the team’s longtime digs, Ned Skeldon Stadium in Maumee.

If ProMedica follows through with its plan to move downtown, that would move 700 more employees downtown.

The success of the Huntington Center has continued the warehouse district’s momentum, as has the success of restaurants and retail businesses.

Next up will be a $21 million shopping, dining, residential, and concert district called Hensville, which the Mud Hens hope to develop along St. Clair Street near Fifth Third Field.

“We’re at that tipping point where this is going to be a very special place to live and work,” Mr. Napoli said.

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com or 419-724-6079.

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