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Published: Monday, 8/24/2009

Bell seeks to revive neighborhoods with business centers

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Mayoral candidate Mike Bell today will propose establishing small business centers in several old Toledo neighborhoods to revive retail and office activity - including at least two where the city already has community development corporations.

Mr. Bell, an independent, says "neighborhood jobs" must be part of a formula to put Toledoans back to work. He said his "Neighborhood Business Centers" proposal would bring back the city's "urban village" business districts.

He said the centers could be located in historically significant buildings or in buildings that could be acquired through land-banking.

He said the city would not have a financial stake in the centers, but could aid them through loans and grants.

Emphasis would be on attracting "knowledge work," such as computer-oriented and digital communication companies, and neighborhood-level service providers - health, insurance, finance, and educational facilities.

Mr. Bell said his goal would be to put one Neighborhood Business Center in each of Toledo's "tipping point" areas by the end of his first term - and extend the concept to additional neighborhoods in future years.

Tipping-point neighborhoods are considered stable but threatened with high foreclosure and unemployment rates.

As tipping-point neighborhoods that could get neighborhood business centers, Mr. Bell named Library Village around Sylvania Avenue and Jackman Road, Broadway and South Avenue in the Old South End, Front and Main streets in East Toledo, and the area centering on Ashland Avenue, Collingwood Boulevard, Delaware Avenue, and Bancroft Street.

At least two of the areas Mr. Bell proposes to put Neighborhood Business Centers already have community development corporations - CDCs - which are funded by the city to promote small business development.

The River East Economic Revitalization Corp. has its office at Front and Main. And Viva South Toledo community development corporation has an office on Broadway three blocks south of South.

Officially, the city's Department of Neighborhoods identifies as tipping-point neighborhoods: Highland Heights/Burroughs School, centering roughly on Detroit and South avenues; Secor Gardens/Sleepy Hollow, near Dorr Street and Secor Road; Library Village/Close Park, and East Toledo.

Terry Glazer, the chief executive officer of United North, a community development corporation in the Lagrange/North Toledo areas, said the CDCs already work to recruit small business.

He said a big concern is getting banks to resume making loans to assist local businesses.

"The banks are not participating or wanting to lend," Mr. Glazer said. "So if Mike Bell can do something to cut through some of that, that would be welcome."

Mr. Bell said if some of the areas where he plans a Neighborhood Business Center are already adequately served he would offer help, rather than duplication.

"What we're proposing is to help in any of these areas," Mr. Bell said. He said the sites of the proposed Neighborhood Business Centers were selected

because they were areas that need help, and

weren't based on a governmental definition of tipping points.

Mr. Bell said he would seek partnerships with such organizations as the Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Toledo Urban League.

"These organizations already have services available, but the city can play a more active role in linking them with qualified small business entrepreneurs at the neighborhood level to make them successful," he said.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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