Maria L. Rodriguez-Winter built a brick wall next to a building she bought to hide an alleyway where prostitutes once plied their trade.
Now, the wall features a brightly painted Virgin of Guadalupe and the Ten Commandments.
It's a moral message for a down-and-out community trying to rebound from poverty and crime, she said, and a symbolic step to go along with a real economic investment she hopes inspires others.
Community activists for the South Toledo neighborhood, including Mrs. Rodriguez-Winter, are asking the Toledo Plan Commission to take another step they say will help the community: prohibit future pawn shops and payroll advance-style businesses on Broadway from Summit Street to the Danny Thomas Park.
"It's a lot better here than it used to be," said the mother of three, who runs an insurance company out of the building at 1232 Broadway. "I don't think pawn shops would work well here."
That request, to be taken up at the commission's Thursday meeting, is one part of an effort to turn the neighborhood into a thriving Latin quarter of restaurants, cafes, and art galleries.
The impoverished street, site of recent violence at the New Triangle Cafe, has a long way to go. But with a community garden, the Sofia Quintero Art & Cultural Center, and other existing businesses, the street has come a long way from the days when the alley was open for business, Mrs. Rodriguez-Winter said.
Anne Robinson, executive director of the area's VIVA South Toledo Community Development Corp., said payroll advance businesses are not on the stretch of Broadway. The move is preventative to preserve the flavor of the Latin-accented commercial district.
"They can choose to go to one in another neighborhood," she said.
Celso Rodriguez, president of VIVA's board of directors, said the area could one day be an entertainment destination, if given the proper nurturing.
"We're trying to preserve the integrity of the neighborhood," Mr. Rodriguez said. "We are working with businesses to make sure they have the type of facades we prefer - Latino-type colors, the bright blues and browns and golds.
"We are working with the neighborhood to try and maintain and upgrade the buildings. Check-cashing operation, in our opinion, do not help the revitalization effort," he said.
Contact Christopher D. Kirkpatrick