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Published: Wednesday, 6/20/2007

Investing in the downtown

IF THERE is an apposite metaphor for looking at the development and revitalization of downtown Toledo, it may be watching the ebb and flow of the tide. Both emotionally and in terms of actual bricks and mortar, this development watch is at one time pregnant with optimism and possibilities, and at another disappointing as projects stall or fall through.

For every Fifth Third Field there is a Fiberglas Tower, an empty and forlorn reminder of good times past.

But now Toledo appears to be once again on the verge of gaining new momentum, of seeing visions realized through both private and public investment and initiative.

The primary generator of this optimism is the planned downtown sports arena destined to be constructed only yards from the SeaGate Convention Centre and a block from the home of the Hens. It will host events from hockey games to concerts.

Seating up to 10,000 people, the arena will incorporate ideas from the community, a key to both ensuring public involvement and acceptance of the project. One idea that deserves widespread support is that the building be environmentally friendly.

Meanwhile, only a block away, Fifth Third Center may be getting a new owner as Fifth Third Bank readies for its move into One SeaGate. Developer David Ball, who has restored other buildings downtown and is a partner in a project to renovate the Steam Plant, says he wants to return the building's facade to the way it looked a century ago.

Construction of the "Hen house" downtown has been a catalyst for development, and there is every reason to believe that a new arena could do the same. With thousands of fans attending games, concerts, or other entertainment events, surely there is an opportunity for new restaurants, bars, or clubs to lure that crowd.

It's an encouraging prospect, and one that bodes well for the continuing reinvigoration of the downtown.

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