It seemed like a strange place for flags from Texas, California, Montana, and other U.S. states to be hanging from streetlights. But hanging flags of the 50 U.S. states and several territories on Adams Street between 11th and 22nd streets by Neighborhoods in Partnerships made for a colorful and eye-catching patriotic drive through Toledo's Uptown district.
That's just what organizers had hoped for. It was one of several steps the community development group has taken to change the perception of the neighborhood as a haven for prostitutes and vagrants.
Neighborhoods in Partnership is redeveloping the area as part of its Uptown Main Street project. The group has been working hard to attract businesses and residents to the Adams Street area while sprucing up storefronts and buildings.
The Toledo Community Development Corp. Alliance, a coalition of many of the city's neighborhood groups, is helping.
The state flags were installed to give a more festive look at the corridor between downtown and the city's Old West End, organizers said.
“We've had some interesting discussions about the corridor since August and September of last year,” said Matt Wiederhold, economic development specialist with Neighborhoods in Partnership. “After the terrorist attacks, there was some thought given to putting American flags there, but we thought other cities were doing that. Then we talked about doing flags from different countries, but International Park already had those.
“We thought the state flags would be fun - for tourists to find their flags - and colorful,” Mr. Wiederhold said.
The flags, with poles, were attached to the streetlights along Adams Streets last week. The goal was to have the flags up for the July 4th weekend.
“The response has been very favorable,” said Ron McKinney, owner of North Shore Display, 1817 Adams St., and a member of the design committee of the Uptown Main Street Project. “It's neat to see the merchants come out, looking around and talking to each other.
“There's a lot of pride among the group about this,” he said. “I've received calls from friends who use Adams Street, and they told me what a difference it's made along the corridor. We've got our own Avenue of the Americas here.”
Mr. McKinney said the design committee kicked around several ideas to improve the esthetics of the corridor and found plenty of teamwork among the committee's members. “We talked about murals and banners and flowers,” he said. “Since I'm in the display business, I brought up the flags and was able to purchase them at wholesale and offer that price” to Neighbors in Partnership.
Toledo Sign at 2021 Adams agreed to install the flags on the light poles for free, Mr. McKinney said. The Uptown Association and the group contributed the $3,000 to purchase the flags.
“All of a sudden, by working together, we had all the labor and money we needed to do this project,” Mr. McKinney said.
He said the flags were another part of an effort that merchants have taken on to remake Adams Street into an inviting corridor to and from downtown for residents and tourists.
“The good thing about this is that we're doing it ourselves,” Mr. McKinney said. “We're not begging the city to do anything for us - just let us do it. With everyone working together, we can get it done. I have a neighbor who doesn't cut his grass, so I do it myself. It's no big deal. I'd rather do that than to have it look like a hayfield and wait for the city to fine him.”
Danielle Steinhauser, program manager of the Central City Main Street Program, said the alliance is hoping for creative ideas such as the one by Neighborhoods in Partnership to help draw people back to the city's core. The economic development directors of several CDCs attended a national Main Street conference in Boston last week, when ideas and plans were shared.
Linda Detrick-Jaegly, economic development director for Lagrange Development Corp., said the biggest challenge for neighborhood groups is to fight the perception of crime and blight. “The perception of crime is always greater than the actual crime,” she said. “The things we learned about crime prevention, such as lighting and cleanup, help you battle that perception.”