COLLEGE students typically haven't taken an active civic interest in the area around their campus, but that's starting to change locally. A dedicated group of University of Toledo students are rallying in support of improvements in nearby neighborhoods. They are right that the Dorr Street corridor, as it is known, needs development. And while the area adjacent to UT should be made more appealing, there are other sections of Dorr all the way to Washington Street near downtown that cannot be forgotten.
UT President Lloyd Jacobs has a vision of Toledo as a "university town." That's a delightful idea, but it cannot become reality until the university area bustles with the cafes, restaurants, and bookstores that draw and hold students. Locating those businesses there would allow students to walk from their campus dorms instead of driving elsewhere to shop, dine, or be entertained.
The student government's push for revitalization is in line with goals set by the UT board of trustees. Students have organized a campaign called "UT Students Care about Dorr Street" that is designed to create a student-friendly atmosphere. The trustees plan a "University Town District" that would integrate the university with the community.
What is important is to not forget about nearby residents in the process. This has always been a source of friction. Students have rented housing in neighborhoods around UT, and in some cases, their drinking and partying habits have disturbed homeowners. Residents who take part in discussions about re-development also must aggressively advocate for their interests.
Likewise, it would be unfortunate if the city makes improvements to Dorr between Westwood Avenue and Byrne Road and then neglects the rest of this thoroughfare, down to the city's core.
Decades ago, the policy that came to be known as "urban removal" wiped out thriving neighborhoods under the guise of redevelopment. Vacant knoll-like mounds, low-income housing, and what has become a deteriorating strip shopping center have replaced flourishing small businesses.
Toledo can and should make improvements that will make the university district more appealing to college students. But it can't afford to neglect homeowners or the rest of the city.