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Published: Wednesday, 6/27/2007

'Other Dorr St.' talks seek renewal strategy

BY CLYDE HUGHES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

One could call the stretch of Dorr Street from downtown Toledo to Parkside Boulevard "the Other Dorr Street."

Residents and business owners of "the Other Dorr Street" will gather at a town hall meeting at 6:30 tonight at Mount Pilgrim Church, 1401 Hoag St., to develop ways to bring the same attention and capital to that area as the proposed Dorr Street Corridor adjacent to the University of Toledo receives.

"The Other Dorr" is still remembered by central-city residents as a haven for nearly 70 African-American businesses until they were demolished during the urban renewal movement in the mid-1970s.

Today, the Rev. Raymond Bishop, pastor at Mount Pilgrim, said the area has been forgotten as money flows to the Dorr Street Corridor, downtown, and the Marina District in East Toledo.

Mr. Bishop said the area is ripe for an urban renaissance.

He said tonight's meeting, organized by the Dorr Street Coalition, can become a catalyst for attention, money, and development of the strip.

"There can be an urban renaissance in residential, commercial, education, health care, and recreation, giving entrepreneurial opportunities to those who can't make major franchise investments but who are able to bring smaller businesses and small business development to the central city," he said.

Mr. Bishop said the coalition includes 15 to 20 African-American organizations and 700 individuals interested in seeing tax dollars and private investment along Dorr. He said people in the area simply want their fair share of attention and financial resources dedicated to their end of the corridor.

Last month, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and University of Toledo President Dr. Lloyd Jacobs talked about working together to develop a student village environment along Dorr, where the university is located.

That development, called the University Town District, would include new shops, cafes, restaurants, bookstores, and other student-oriented amenities.

Councilman Wilma Brown said the part of Dorr that runs through the central city is the gateway to the university area and needs the same attention.

Ms. Brown said she has championed the redevelopment of Dorr in the central city ever since she's been on council and is pleased with the coalition's commitment.

"I think [tonight's meeting] is very important because it hasn't been done before," Ms. Brown said. "This is the first time a coalition has been put together saying we're going to pick up and help. This will give me a chance to relax because I've got somebody interested in what I'm interested in."

Ms. Brown has supported the development of townhouses along Dorr, near Smead Avenue, called the Brownstones.

She said she hopes construction will start soon, but investors are looking for the presale of two units to get the project going.

Ms. Brown said there are opportunities for commercial development as well.

"We need a comprehensive plan instead of having something in one place here and having something in one place there," she said. "We're trying to get something different on Dorr Street rather than convenience stores and auto shops."

Mr. Bishop sees the meeting as an opportunity for residents to tell community leaders and elected officials what they would like Dorr to become. He said the Lucas County commissioners and Ms. Brown have been supportive in their efforts.

After tonight's meeting, the coalition will meet to target specific areas, such as health care, education, and residential and commercial development, and develop a plan that may be presented by Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 2008, Mr. Bishop said.

"We will talk to the community about what we see, and we hope they will come back and tell us what they want to see," said Suzette Cowell, chief executive officer of the Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union, who will address tonight's meeting along with Charles Welch, president of Welch Communications/WJUC-FM; Organized Neighbors Yielding eXcellence Inc., and the Toledo Community Development Corp.

Contact Clyde Hughes at:

chughes@theblade.com

or 419-724-6095.



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