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Published: Thursday, 6/23/2011

Park sought at site near downtown Toledo

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The UpTown Neighborhood is a mix of trendy apartments and bars, abandoned buildings and blight.

The community development corporation dedicated to the near-downtown area wants a new park to help increase the neighborhood's positive aspects while getting rid of some of the blight and slum.

"What it came down to, was that the UpTown Association board realized that the development of a signature park in that area would spawn future economic development," UpTown Association Executive Director Julie Champa said .

Toledo City Council next week could vote to apply for a $1.5 million state grant to build a 2.4-acre park bounded by Madison Avenue, 18th Street, Laburnum Lane, and 20th Street in the neighborhood.

The idea offered by the UpTown Association includes an amphitheater, an outdoor cafe, a rain garden and rainwater swale (a wet, marshy area), an outdoor movie screen, and children's games.

The state funding also would pay for demolition of two buildings that contain asbestos and for infrastructure improvements, Ms. Champa said.

The grant would require a match of 25 percent -- or $375,000, said Tim Murphy, Toledo's commissioner of environmental services.

"The match would come from a combination of the partners in this, including the UpTown Association," he said. "The grant application is due by mid-July and by then, we will know exactly how much we need. We may not need the whole $1.5 million."

The partners haven't been identified, but Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat said there would not be a cost for the city.

Leanne Black, manager of the nearby Hillcrest Apartments at 24116th St., was excited to hear about the plan.

"That would be wonderful," she said. "Our residents never really have a place to take their kids, and if that will have green space, it would be a great place to take children and keep them out of trouble."

She said blight in the neighborhood has been a problem for years. "There are different homeless shelters in the area, and those abandoned buildings are a great place for homeless people to go and start fires, sell drugs, and cause trouble," Ms. Black said.

Councilman Paula Hicks-Hudson, whose district includes UpTown, said the park would "add some vibrancy" to the neighborhood.

"I think it is part of the plan to get more folks living and working in the UpTown area to improve the atmosphere," she said.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.



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