Promenade Park downtown is sometimes considered Toledo's "front lawn" and city officials are spending money to spruce it up in an attempt to bring the area back into use and draw people in.
Mayor Mike Bell just released the second phase of his plans to turn Promenade Park into a more usable green space for downtown. He said the redesigned park is part of his plan to bring vitality back to downtown after years of decline.
“The ultimate goal is to create a place that helps us with economic development in the downtown area and that will bring people back,” Mayor Bell said. “I do think it is worth it. You have to invest in the downtown area because there is no way you are going to have people come without investing in it.”
Last year, a month after city council ended opposition to the mayor's plan to revitalize the park, the first phase of renovations got under way. Beginning July 9, workers with heavy equipment began hauling large piles of soil to the land where the Federal Building once stood next to Promenade Park and adjacent to the former Toledo Edison steam plant.
Giant rollers smoothed down the soil to elevate the site, filled in Water Street next to it, and connected the land with the current Promenade Park site along the river. The plan is to double the size of the park and create a graded slope from North Summit Street down to the Maumee River.
A $2.2 million left over from a state loan previously allocated for a public portion of the Marina District in East Toledo was rededicated for Promenade Park. The first phase cost Toledo taxpayers about $400,000, leaving about $1.8 million for the second phase. Included in that part of the plan are decorative boulevards, parking, low landscape planters with benches, decomposed granite walkways, a tree lawn, an information kiosk, specialty retail carts, seating, and concrete work.
Toledo City Council has also spent money out of the city's capital improvements budget for the site.
Last year, it appropriated $45,000 for landscape design and on Tuesday, council reviewed another request for up to $50,000 to hire MKSK, a landscape architecture and urban design firm from Columbus, to do more landscape architectural design. It could vote to approve that money at a meeting next Tuesday.
Future plans include a splash pad for children, a concert lawn amphitheater, and “green rooms” for performers. Mayor Bell stressed that the city will need private funding for those added amenities.
“What I am trying to do is build for the future,” he said. “If we are going to survive and be a city that comes back we have to do things that are a little bit on the edge.”
David Dysard, planning administrator at the city division of engineering services, said the city does not have cost estimates for the amphitheater and splash pad.
Councilman Steven Steel, chairman of council's parks and recreation committee, said the mayor's idea was initially questioned when it surfaced in 2011.
“There was a time when Promenade Park was highly used and it was an important asset downtown; when Party in the Park was happening you had to reserve dock space … and back in its heyday, 50,000 people would be at Promenade Park,” Mr. Steel said. "One of our biggest assets for every aspect of being an urban dweller - whether you are concerned with livability, economic abilities, to attract mainstream acts - one of the biggest assets we have is the Maumee River.”
Contact Ignazio Messina at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6171 or on Twitter @IgnazioMessina.