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Published: Sunday, 7/29/2001

Four steps to a better downtown

Some items while fearing the stock market's dive has reduced my 401(k)'s value to the equivalent of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich:

THE MISSING LINKS: The way I see it, Toledo's downtown could be the envy of the Midwest in four easy steps. Without taking all of the steps, though, we will continue to have one of the most underachieving downtowns in the country.

We have a beautiful river running through downtown, for goodness sakes, but there's no pulse after 6 p.m. - and only a faint pulse can be detected before then. Sadly, there's no sense of urgency to repair the heart of Toledo.

Maybe Downtown Toledo, Inc., will inspire us to put development on the front burner. The organization's president, Peter Gozza, says a master plan is mandatory. Bingo.

Make us look in the mirror, Mr. Gozza. We've been avoiding it for so long. Our downtown is ugly - and, frankly, it doesn't have much of a personality.

For all practical purposes, we've already taken two of the four steps necessary for a vibrant downtown. First, a cultural anchor (Valentine Theatre) is already in place and, second, a sports anchor (baseball stadium) will open in eight months.

It's anyone's guess when we'll take the third step - building an arena, which will serve as the entertainment anchor. The Sports Arena should be labeled Public Enemy No. 1. It's the city's biggest eyesore.

The fourth step is a retail anchor - a state-of-the-art mall, complete with a multiscreen movie complex. Granted, a downtown mall probably won't happen in my lifetime; so the Marina District is an acceptable Plan B because it, in effect, combines steps three and four.

While I would prefer the arena be built near the baseball stadium, the Marina District has momentum on its side. And to me, the arena's location is secondary to it actually being built.

I sense that the Lucas County commissioners are patting themselves on their backs over making the baseball stadium a reality. And, given the community's omnipresent resistance to change, it is worthy of a few pats. But what have they done for us lately?

Meanwhile, I've never been impressed with Toledo city council's sense of urgency. I mean, at a January meeting it actually took the time to name the wild lupine as the city's official wildflower. All the while, it refused to involve itself in the smoking-ban debate. Can you say “priorities”?

Instead of pressing on at full speed and fostering an environment that encourages truly monumental changes to downtown, both political bodies seem content to move at a snail's pace. Typical Toledo, I say. We are the antithesis of forward-thinking. We are world-class procrastinators.

To paraphrase a television commercial from yesteryear: A city with a river running through its downtown is a terrible thing to waste.

HALF A SIX PACK: Three questions this week. In honor of my nephew Adam's milestone birthday tomorrow, I'm offering 21 points for each correct answer. (Note: Click on the link below and check out reader response to last week's questions.)

1) If you were imprisoned for 12 years and then freed after a priest testified that another man had confessed to the murder long ago, would you be thankful that the priest came forward or resentful that he waited so long?

2) If you were in charge of the federal budget, wouldn't you advise against spending $34 million to notify Americans about their coming tax-rebate checks?

3) From a reader: In light of the recent fatal accident, shouldn't Toledo police revise its “chase” procedures some more to protect innocent citizens?

Russ Lemmon's column appears Sundays. Readers may contact him at 1-419-724-6122, or e-mail rlemmon@theblade.com.



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