Saturday, Apr 21, 2018
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Stepping up to the plate


Vacant buildings on St. Clair Street would be refurbished as part of a plan by the Toledo Mud Hens.

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A revitalized Warehouse District and downtown are helping Toledo maintain its population and tax base. They are essential to sustaining a healthy central city with cultural and entertainment venues that attract investment and young people, broaden the tax base, and brand Toledo and northwest Ohio as a vibrant and attractive place to live and play.

A resurgent Warehouse District won’t turn around Toledo’s distressed central-city neighborhoods. But it will help ensure that Toledo has the resources it needs to bolster public services and alleviate problems throughout the city.

Given the importance of the Warehouse District to the city’s overall redevelopment strategy, the Mud Hens’ plan to work with investors on a $10 million to $15 million project to redevelop empty buildings near Fifth Third Field should encourage all of Toledo.

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Any major project here should get input from neighborhood residents, complement historical architecture, and maintain a pedestrian and mass-transit-friendly environment. At first blush, this project does not appear to compromise any of those standards. On the contrary, it would enhance the urban-village flavor of the district.

The proposal, announced this week by Joe Napoli, president and general manager of the minor-league baseball team, calls for, among other things, restoring a pair of three-story buildings on St. Clair Street adjacent to the stadium, as well as the old Spangler Candy Co. building across the street. It includes more than $1 million in property the Mud Hens acquired two years ago.

Potential development includes loft apartments and condos, restaurants, retail space, and commercial uses, including rooftop patios for watching Mud Hens games and other events.

Project participants include the Mud Hens, Lathrop Co., and Tom Porter Architects. Developers should also consider art galleries and the use of public art to make this space even more attractive.

State and federal new-market tax credits, which developers have used to redevelop distressed urban blocks nationwide, would finance much of the project, making it a public-private partnership. The project is scheduled for completion by mid-2016.

Since 1989, the Warehouse District has grown from six residents to more than 500, thanks partly to the opening of Fifth Third Field in 2002. It has become a magnet for investors and young and retired people who seek an urban experience. It must remain a vital part of the city’s redevelopment plans.

In this project and others, Toledo’s art community should make its voice heard, as it becomes increasingly important to how Toledo brands itself to the region, state, and nation. The mayor’s office and City Council can best help by, in general, staying out of the way.

Every new development project must thoughtfully seek to preserve and improve much of the good work that has already been done in the Warehouse District. The project announced by the Mud Hens this week shows every sign of doing just that.

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