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Published: Thursday, 5/26/2005

Westgate is close to needing a defibrillator

I had to pick up the refill on a prescription one day last week, an errand that pretty much required me to keep my eyes closed.

This is not the recommended way of trying to park a car, by the way - but it's just about the only way I can drive into the Westgate Village Shopping Center parking lot these days.

Talk about an excursion to Drearyville.

Hey, where'd everybody go? One minute, the place was jumpin'. The next minute, there's p-l-e-n-t-y of parking, and most of it's real close to all the storefronts.

Losing Thackeray's bookstore was bad enough, but coming face-to-face with the lonely expanse of nothingness left since its departure - and the other retail leave-takings in its wake - is hard for a confirmed west sider and Westgate habitue to take.

Oh, to be sure, there are still businesses in Westgate. It's no retail desert, but there's no getting around it: As it is right now, it feels something like a South-wyck prequel.

Sigh. Oh, I dunno. Maybe I've just been around here too long. Maybe I've been at this job too long. Same topics, different years. Ladies and gentlemen, I am now quoting myself. From a 2000 column:

For [University of Toledo] Urban Affairs director Patrick McGuire, Westgate's long-term fate will foreshadow the future of Toledo's other postwar shopping districts.

"We know [that decline] happens when you don't pay attention. ... The city has to have places to shop besides the suburbs. Westgate will be a demonstration project. It's really economic development at its best, stabilizing a portion of the city."

As more than one local politician was quick to point out to me in recent days, Westgate is still a private concern: private-sector dollars, private-sector plans. As such, I was reminded, Westgate really shouldn't show too many tell-tale smudges from city fingerprints.

True enough, I guess.

Then again, there's still no zoning strong enough to keep out big-box stores.

And however welcome a Costco might be (which remains to be seen), gargantuan windowless concrete bunkers are in direct opposition to what many of Westgate's neighbors identified as their desire for less asphalt and more small-business walkability.

We know this is what a good chunk of neighbors want because "Walk Westgate" told us.

Remember? This much-ballyhooed charette - the intensive brainstorming session of business owners, neighbors, and officials - led to consultants' re-envisioning of the Westgate area.

The plans had some interesting principles, some of which you can see for yourself in suburban Levis Commons.

And I guess I could jog your memories with more specific examples, but to tell you the truth, I'm thinking: Why bother?

And I'm wondering: Where's the dusty shelf where the Walk Westgate plan (cost: at least $35,000) now sits?

Eh. Don't mind me. I must be depressed or something

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