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Published: Wednesday, 6/13/2007

Downtown Toledo booster groups merge efforts

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The former Downtown Toledo Inc. merchants' association is reforming, with a new mission and a new name, and both will be unveiled at an event this morning.

Called the Greater Downtown Business Partnership, the organization represents four organizations that now work downtown: the Downtown Toledo Improvement District, CitiFest Inc., Downtown Toledo Parking Authority, and the Design Center, according to Thomas Crothers, a spokesman for the new group.

The organization is aimed at the "greater downtown," which can include the Warehouse District, Uptown, the Docks, the Marina District, and the Vistula area.

Mr. Crothers, executive director of the improvement district, said the new organization aims to be a vehicle to help entrepreneurs obtain information, assemble property, and perform other functions. It also will advocate for design standards and capital budget priorities in the greater downtown.

The new organization is to be the subject of a "First Annual Report to the Community" at One SeaGate starting at 7:30.

Mr. Crothers said it's obvious the city no longer has the money it once had to fund outside agencies.

"We recognize that things are difficult for the city financially," he said. "To have a consistent focus on downtown, the private sector is going to have to do it."

Two city council members involved in downtown issues said they applaud the move.

"It sounds like a good idea - shared resources," Councilman Michael Ashford said.

He said he'd like to see the downtown organization's request for capital improvement dollars be treated separately from the rest of the city, "so it doesn't draw from the neighborhoods."

Council Finance Chairman George Sarantou said he believes the umbrella group advances council's longtime goal of consolidating the downtown organizations.

"I am supportive as long as the goal is to decrease city funding and make [the organization] self-sufficient," Mr. Sarantou said. "We have been talking for at least four years about combining these various functions. It's a start."

Funding for the new umbrella organization so far is coming from the four founding groups.

"We will have to find the appropriate structure and we have to find a significant funding source," Mr. Crothers said.

At present, GDBP is managed by a task force. Creating a new board will be one of the first priorities of today's meeting, he said.

Mr. Crothers said the board initially would be drawn from the presidents or executive directors and the chairman of each organization's board.

DTI faded from view last year after city council approved the Downtown Toledo Improvement District, under which downtown property is assessed taxes to pay for clean-up crews, security patrols, and marketing.

Mr. Crothers said the members of the former Downtown Toledo Inc. met late in 2006 to dissolve the organization as a nonprofit entity and decided to regroup under a new name.



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