Wednesday, Apr 25, 2018
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Residents weigh in on downtown development

Chris Schroeder and Jacob Hamm found plenty to take in last night at an open house displaying proposed concepts for a downtown Toledo master plan.

Both liked that the plan's conceptual ideas for future land use consider all of downtown, not just a few blocks that surround where the Mud Hens baseball ballpark is going up.

“I'm surprised there's so much emphasis on historic preservation,” said Mr. Schroeder, an Old West End resident.

Consultants gave a broad overview of the suggested direction downtown development should follow and invited the public to comment in the main lobby of the Toledo Edison Plaza, 300 Madison Ave.

A final draft should be presented to the plan commission and city council this fall.

Right now, one of the elements missing from the area is a more visible public transit to shuttle residents up and down the length of downtown streets and across the Maumee River, Mr. Hamm, also an Old West End resident, said.

“Light rail [or trolleys] would be a viable option,” he said.

TARTA's bus system and its rubber-wheeled trolleys don't provide enough coverage, he said.

WilliAnn Moore, president of the Toledo branch of the NAACP, said she was in favor of seeing older warehouse buildings re-adapted for technology-based businesses, something the consultants urge.

While getting more housing downtown is laudable, she said the plans don't do much to attract families with children and teens to live downtown.

“Where are the family things?” Mrs. Moore asked, such as park space and shops aimed at young people. “There should be something here for people who have kids. COSI closes at 5 p.m. You can't take them to bars and restaurants all the time.”

Generally, planners for Development Concepts, Inc., an Indianapolis firm, and LDR International of Columbia, Md., suggested three possible directions that could guide downtown redevelopment.

One suggested giving greater emphasis to the pedestrian walkways along Summit Street and the Martin Luther King, Jr., Bridge, with expanded links to areas east and west of the Maumee River.

A second concept suggested making Madison Avenue and Huron Street the city's focal center, with development radiating mainly west of the river.

A third master plan model envisioned more park-like greenspace be at the core of future redevelopment on both sides of the river.

Planners said a lot of what they heard are the same conclusions they are drawing themselves.

More visible downtown public transit, attractive sidewalks, and pedestrian amenities should be part of the master plan, Cy Paumier, an urban designer for LDR, said. “The thing that is lacking here is any unifying element,” he said. “The public realm is almost nonexistent. The public environment is so mediocre. The mayor has done a good job adding color and plant material, but that is not enough.”

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