The old North Towne Square mall has all the makings of a scene from The Walking Dead.
Weeds and grass jut from the cracked, vacant parking lot, and the dilapidated mall is devoid of life. Time virtually has stood still at the Toledo eyesore since it closed in February, 2005.
The mall -- a once-promising destination -- is eerily reminiscent of a zombie apocalypse.
The area, which once housed bustling businesses, now stands to lose more potential customers and money because of the imminent closing of Raceway Park, which could come as early as 2013.
Business owners remain hopeful for a renaissance as city officials push for an industrial revolution, but no clear path has been laid for this corner of Toledo.
"The fact that we now have basically two adjacent 80-plus-acre sites in the city bodes well," City Councilman Lindsay Webb said. "That, coupled with the announced expansion at the Jeep plant and its suppliers hiring as well, increases the chance we will be able to attract additional suppliers for the Jeep plant and for that industry."
Auto parts suppliers or light-industrial manufacturers would be a perfect fit for the area because it is close to I-75, Ms. Webb said. Attracting companies of that type is an ongoing discussion among city leaders, she said.
That hope was echoed by Tom Lemon, director of the Toledo-Lucas County Plan Commission, who said the land's zoning lends itself to industrial uses. There might have to be some rezoning down the road, but it wouldn't be a hassle, he said.
"I see it as an industrial use, perhaps related to some of the suppliers for Jeep expansions," he said.
City officials have not conducted a formal study of this section of Toledo, so there's no telling how much business has been lost since the mall closed or how existing ones could be affected once Raceway Park is shuttered.
The remnants of businesses are scattered throughout the area of Alexis Road, Detroit Avenue, and Telegraph Road. Strip malls have vacancies, others are run down, and numerous buildings are for sale or rent. Strip clubs dot the landscape and fill once-vacant lots or former storefronts.
Ms. Webb, whose district includes this area, said she'd like to see the adult industry have a reduced role because it has a negative effect. It could deter businesses willing to move there, she said.
Some businesses with deep roots in the area have managed to thrive, citing upkeep and management as the keys to their success.
Sujkowski Funeral Home, 114 E. Alexis Rd., has been around since 1986, and owner Amy Sujkowski said the mix of businesses has changed drastically in the past 25 years.
"It was so nice when we first moved here," she said, adding that the strip clubs detract from the nearby churches. "There were shops and strip malls -- there were a lot of nice stores there. We are hoping something positive happens."
Terry Grady, who owns the Par 2 Golf Course at 210 E. Alexis Rd., said he overhauled the miniature golf and go-kart facility in 1983 and is constantly doing upgrades. If people can see that you don't value your facility, they won't come, he said.
That was one of the main problems with the mall -- the owners didn't provide a quality shopping experience, Mr. Grady said.
"Its death certificate was on its birth certificate as far as I'm concerned," he said.
The mall -- briefly known as Lakeside Centre before it closed -- is set to be razed sometime in September, said Joel Mazur, a brownfield redevelopment officer for the city of Toledo. The project has faced past delays -- plans originally called for its demolition in May.
City officials remain hopeful the mall's legal kinks will be worked out in the coming weeks, which is a key step in demolishing the structure and pursuing redevelopment projects.
Paul Syring, an attorney in the city's legal department, said the city has taken the mall's owners to court over past code violations.
"That is working its way toward a resolution," he said.
Legal hurdles aside, the city also is finalizing a contract with Homrich Inc. of Carleton, Mich., which was the lowest bidder for the demolition project. The company bid $134,000 to demolish the site and will spend about $200,000 to transform an interior wall that butts up against 21st Century Super Fitness Center into an exterior one. Although the mall is vacant, the gym is operational.
Barring any complications with that contract, everything should be set into motion in the next few months, Mr. Syring said.
Raceway Park will remain under the ownership of Penn National Gaming Inc., which will work with the city to find an appropriate buyer, said Bob Tenenbaum, a company spokesman. Finding the right use for the site, as well as landing a fair sale price, are Penn National's main goals, he said. The harness racing track is moving to Dayton to avoid competition with Penn National's newly opened Hollywood Casino Toledo.
The looming sale of Raceway Park and the demolition of the mall leave the future of the area up in the air. Hopefully new developments will bring more people back to the area, said Stephanie Berman, a manager of Brew-Ha's bar, 5801 Telegraph Rd., which has managed to do well despite the downturn.
"We're around a lot of low-income housing, and with the mall closing there is less to attract people," she said. "There are a bunch of strip clubs, and it's a less desirable location, I guess."
Contact Kris Turner at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6103.