TOLEDO'S rich artistic culture will become even more vibrant with the development of a 22-block "arts zone" downtown. The district is designed to draw artists into the city's core and spur much-needed upscale economic development.
This is not a wishful "build it and they will come" plan because a range of artists and galleries are already there and the inventory of buildings and creative synergies should make it easy to attract more of both.
So far, about 20 artists already live in the former Secor Hotel on Jefferson Avenue, and about twice that many reside within the district. The old Secor is among a handful of buildings that make up a series of artist collectives. They include studios on Olive and Morris streets and a building on North Huron Street.
The new endeavor won't conflict with the current UpTown arts and entertainment district, which also wants to spark revitalization in a wider 52-block area. And just because other such districts exist in Toledo doesn't mean there can't be more.
Although the new zone isn't yet identified with markers, it is part of the Live Work Create Toledo development initiative. The 22-block area includes portions of the warehouse district and the planned Middlegrounds Metropark, and is bounded by Huron Street, I-75, and the Amtrak station.
This important investment for downtown will add to Toledo's beehive of cultural activity. It is true, as Mayor Carty Finkbeiner points out, that the cultural activities will improve the city's ambience, a thought that was put into motion by his predecessor, Jack Ford. He wanted ours to become an "elegant city," and elegance and ambience are attainable with the Toledo Area Botanical Gardens, the world-renowned Toledo Museum of Art, and charter schools that focus on the arts as well as the symphony, opera, and theater.
The arts zone is the result of a partnership between the city and Arts Commission of Greater Toledo. It is funded by $50,000 in community development funds and $100,000 in private-sector donations from the commission.
It should be relatively easy to meet the five-year goal of convincing at least 40 more artists to live and work in the area once a pattern of economic development with artistic themes gains a foothold. The arts zone certainly will make Toledo richer and the concept deserves enthusiastic public support.