As Ohio's economy and state revenues recover, Gov. John Kasich is asking local business and arts groups to nominate economic development projects to compete for financial support in the state’s next capital improvement budget. Northwest Ohio political and business leaders are offering a credible set of proposals that would create jobs, stimulate private investment, and promote the revival of downtown Toledo. The projects deserve the backing of the Kasich administration and lawmakers.
The centerpiece of the list of recommendations, coordinated by the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, is “Mudville” — a $21 million project to revitalize the downtown Warehouse District near Fifth Third Field. Advocates seek $3 million in state aid.
The nonprofit corporation that operates the Toledo Mud Hens plans to renovate three buildings near the stadium that have been vacant for more than 30 years. Mud Hens officials envision Mudville as an entertainment district — restaurants, stores, music venues, street festivals, a pedestrian mall, rooftop decks overlooking the ballpark — that will generate tax revenue and create as many as 100 construction and permanent jobs.
Mudville is scheduled to open in 2016; supporters project it could attract as many as 150,000 visitors a year. More broadly, Mudville can build on downtown development catalyzed by the ballpark and Huntington Center. It can help attract affluent residents to a part of the city that needs them (median annual income in the census tract that includes Mudville was less than $8,700 in 2010).
Joe Napoli, the president and general manager of the Mud Hens, told The Blade’s editorial page that Mudville represents “economic development, jobs, historic renovation, a better community ... We’ll plow the net proceeds back into the facilities.”
This is not a taxpayer giveaway to the Mud Hens. Rather, it is a sound investment in the city’s redevelopment, overseen by an organization that has repeatedly shown its commitment to this community through its charity funds.
Other funding requests for area projects include $3 million to complete the redevelopment and expansion of Promenade Park in downtown Toledo; $2.7 million for a work-force development and advanced manufacturing training center overseen by the University of Toledo and local community colleges; $2 million to upgrade SeaGate Convention Centre, and nearly $2 million for a new kitchen in Toledo for the nonprofit Feed Lucas County Children Inc.
Toledo won’t get everything it’s asking for; its shopping list adds up to $17 million. Neither will any other community in the state, however large. But all of the projects on the northwest Ohio list are worthwhile and well considered.
Toledo taxpayers often feel, with justification, that state government has slighted this corner of Ohio when it has competed for funding with Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. Favorable attention by Governor Kasich to the northwest Ohio project list would go a long way toward dispelling that notion.
In a year in which the governor is seeking re-election, and is likely to need plenty of support from this region, that would be an important message to convey.