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Published: Monday, 11/26/2001

Students plot future of Toledo's downtown

BY RYAN E. SMITH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The architects of the future have spoken.

More commercial and retail options in downtown Toledo are in. More parking garages are out. And adding some flair - perhaps a giant monument in Promenade Park - wouldn't hurt either.

These feelings and more were aired last week in Abe Musher-Eizenman's architecture class on Toledo urbanism at Bowling Green State University.

The 18 seniors were asked to study another city, compare it with Toledo, and then propose a project to improve downtown. Think Toledo as Rome or Philadelphia.

It's not so far-fetched. Walls surrounding cities like Jerusalem find a rough equivalent in the interstates bounding Toledo, and there is much to be learned from the way other towns deal with rivers that cut through them, according to the students' work. Most of their ideas remain conceptual, but the students sought to identify local problem areas in need of intervention.

At the center of everything was an impressive 72-square-foot scale model of downtown Toledo made by the class, which it hopes will be a useful resource for city developers.

Courtney Paulman, who studied Seattle, said she was drawn to the water from the Maumee River and the old site of the Federal Building. She said it should not be used for a parking lot, as had been suggested by Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's administration.

Why?

“Because I built that parking garage over there,” Ms. Paulman quipped, pointing on the model to the Vistula parking garage at Summit and Cherry streets.

Turning serious, she added that the site offers a perfect opportunity to draw the water into the city and enhance the scenery.

William Heilshorn would like to develop Fort Industry Square on Summit in the same spirit as Savannah, Ga., which is renowned for its historic restored streetscape.

The idea would be to fill building vacancies and provide a pedestrian-friendly commercial destination near the new Fifth Third Field that would give residents a reason to go downtown and stay.

“When people say they're going to Toledo, they mean Southwyck or [Franklin Park Mall,]” he said. “No one goes to downtown.”

In an attempt to reverse that trend, Jon Amrozowicz borrowed from Paris. He believes the city can learn something from the Eiffel Tower and such striking structures as Notre Dame. He proposed erecting some sort of monument along the Maumee, perhaps a reminder of the city's origins, to draw attention downtown.

Other suggestions continued to reflect cities home and abroad and included everything from a department store to pedestrian skyways connecting buildings to providing amenities like a grocery store for downtown residents.

Tom Gibbons, associate planner for the Toledo-Lucas County Plan Commissions, sat in on the group's presentations and applauded their work. “They're doing some good things,” he said. “I've heard professionals and consultants say the same things.”



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