Officials from the divisions of Engineering and Parks and Forestry Wednesday presented City Council members with a plan that would double the park’s size and change its layout to incorporate a series of terraces, a covered stage, and a cascading water feature. It’s hoped the design would entice more people to downtown, invigorate area businesses, and highlight Toledo’s waterfront by opening up the view from Summit Street.
The plan calls for joining the current Promenade Park site with the area across the street known as Levis Square. This would be done by eliminating the section of Water Street that divides the two sections, giving visitors and passersby an unimpeded view of the water. The park would then be crafted into four terraced areas and a larger open space that would have a stage visible to people on land and on the river.
“This is a pretty exciting project,” Parks and Forestry Commissioner Dennis Garvin told councilmen during a committee meeting to discuss the city’s capital improvements budget. “This park is Toledo’s front yard. This is our opportunity for economic development as it relates to Toledo as a recreation point.”
To get started, council must approve allocating $750,000 from the capital improvements fund. The money would cover the first phase of the redevelopment, allowing the city to fill in the Water Street section and create the initial layout for the park. The stage, terraces, and water feature would be paid for later through government grants or private funds, officials said.
Getting council to approve that initial funding could be a tough sell. Toledo’s resources are stretched to a breaking point, and many basic improvements to streets and other city assets are being postponed. The city is also struggling to pay for services such as police and fire, and has to transfer $6.8 million of its capital improvements money to the general fund this year to keep its budget balanced.
Two councilmen at Wednesday’s meeting — D. Michael Collins and George Sarantou — questioned whether now is the right time for the project.
“I’m thinking this is a great futuristic program, but is it sensible for us to be running when we should be crawling?” Mr. Collins asked.
Mr. Sarantousaid the project should be put off for a year and the money channelled into meeting infrastructure needs.
“What do you tell people who have been waiting 10 years to have their street repaired?” he said.
Acting now will keep the cost of the project down, said Deputy Mayor Tom Crothers. That’s because the city can bring in its own dirt to build the park from other sites it is working on as part of the Toledo Waterways Initiative, which involves digging new ditches for sewer lines and sewage holding tanks.
Robin Whitney, commissioner of Engineering Services, added that by providing funding for the project, the city would make it easier to obtain money from other sources to complete the work, she said. Officials estimated the total cost of the park renovation would fall between $5 million and $6 million.
Some councilmen supported the plan.
“I think investing in downtown Toledo benefits the entire city,” Joe McNamara said. “If it increases the use [of the park] and produces economic development, that’s a good use of funds.”
Council could vote on the proposed capital improvements budget as early as Tuesday, though a final decision may take weeks. If the funding moves ahead ,the city would begin work in the fall and have the park ready for use by next summer. However, the entire project including the terraces, stage and water feature could take longer depending on whether more funds can be obtained, Ms. Whitney said.
Other capital improvement items discussed at the meeting Wednesday included bids received to construct a new fire station in East Toledo,at a projected $3.7 million cost. The cityseeks to add another $500,000 from its capital improvements fund to cover the difference of a $3 million federal grant that covers most of the project.
The budget also includes $2.5 million for work on residential streets this year. The city had expected to forgo residential street improvements because of budget constraints, but a cash infusion from the sale of the city’s refuse trucks will allow some limited work to go ahead.
Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6272.