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Published: Friday, 10/28/2005

Meetings called to solicit ideas for growth

BY TAD VEZNER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Dreamers and designers looking to develop the outskirts of downtown Toledo will get together this weekend in hopes of creating a tight package of ideas to attract developers and future residents.

Representatives of the Uptown Association and the Toledo Warehouse District Association will hold a two-day brainstorming session, starting tonight, with the goal of drawing a focused, saleable picture of their districts' futures.

"We want the best ideas we can get on ways to envision future development in this neighborhood, but more importantly to actually package those ideas into tools to give to developers and people who want to move there," said Martin Lahey, chairman of the Uptown Association's arts and entertainment committee and owner of Manhattan's restaurant on Adams Street.

Kathleen Kovacs, program officer of Toledo's Local Initiatives Support Corp., which is organizing the event, summed up the reason for the session with some notes jotted down during an urban planning session with a Chicago consultant last June:

"[Toledo Warehouse District Association] and Uptown could present a united front. TWDA popping but not Uptown ... plan - inclusiveness - think long-term!!" she wrote.

Kathy Steingraber, head of the Warehouse District Association, agreed on all those points.

"It doesn't have anything to do with who's leading the pack. We both have a vision of creating a vibrant city," she said. "We're like two sisters out there. We're looking for that really great date that's gonna make it happen."

They're not the only ones looking: The LISC, members of the University of Toledo's Urban Affairs Center, urban planning students from Bowling Green State University, architects, and area residents - all are either taking part or have been invited.

The end result of the session, planners hope, will be solidified ideas in the form of visuals and architectural sketches that could be professionally drafted with funds they've raised.

All agreed that the Uptown district, a spread-out area west of downtown, needs the most work: Talk of an artistic theme and the need for more residential units has dominated conversations of late.

Organizers also note another end goal - changing zoning to an urban neighborhood classification, which allows for residential living above storefronts.

Some steps are already being taken.

Mrs. Steingraber and her husband have partnered with developer George Lathrop, aided by a minor donation from interim city Councilman John Henry Fullen, to develop a pair of residential buildings in the Uptown area. The buildings include a large warehouse building at 1301 Adams St., which has yet to be purchased, for apartments, and an already-purchased three-story brick building at 1212 Jackson St. that would be a mixture of residential and retail units.

"There has to be a catalyst somewhere. Someone has to make that investment and take that risk," Ms. Steingraber said.

The brainstorming session will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. today and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. tomorrow at the Toledo School for the Arts, 333 14th St.

Contact Tad Vezner at:

tvezner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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