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Published: Thursday, 3/21/2013

TARTA revisits station plan to allay fears of businesses

Theater, cafe want to keep parking lot

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Revised plans for a central TARTA bus station on Jackson Street show surface parking in the Paramount Block’s northeast corner as a concession for the Valentine Theatre and Georgio’s Cafe International, which have been unhappy with the prospect of the station replacing the surface lot across the street.

A plan revision keeps about 100 parking spaces in the part of the lot closest to Georgio’s and other businesses along Superior Street, Bill Thomas, president of the Downtown Toledo Improvement Corp., told the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority’s facilities committee this week.

Project planners, Mr. Thomas said, are trying to achieve “what’s best for the Valentine and the rest of downtown.”

At Georgio’s, keeping part of the parking lot open is only partially satisfying.

“That would be great, I would like to see that,” Chris Kamilaris, one of Georgio’s co-owners, said shortly after Thomas discussed the plan with a Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority committee.

But while keeping some of the parking would be welcome, Mr. Kamilaris said that in general, he has no use for a bus station across the street, since he doubts bus passengers would ever visit his fine-dining establishment.

“I’m just hoping they don’t make a big mistake like they did 30 years ago,” he said, referring to the downtown bus loop that the station is proposed to replace.

“I’m thinking about doing some renovations, but I’m going to wait and see,” Mr. Kamilaris said. “Now, I’m not sure I’m going to do it.”

Tedd Long, chairman of the Valentine’s board of trustees, said the board would need to meet to discuss the revision before expressing any public opinion about it.

“We need to sit down, look at it, and understand it,” he said. “We’re interested in whatever design changes can accommodate our patrons.”

The lot, sometimes referred to as the Paramount lot because its block once was home to Toledo’s Paramount Theatre, has room for about 360 cars.

Besides the revised plan keeping 100 parking spaces there, the bus-station proposal suggests converting two blocks of what is now the eastbound side of Jackson into surface parking, with about 75 spaces.

Paul Toth, the port authority’s president, said there has been some preliminary discussion about his agency buying the lot from its current operator, Reu Park, to preserve the site’s availability for the bus-station project. Last year, the port authority bought Toledo’s three downtown parking garages from the city.

But William Carroll, chairman of the port authority board, was emphatic that no purchase of the surface lot has been agreed to, and board member Jerry Chabler said he would not support port authority involvement unless the Valentine, “a crown jewel of the arts in downtown Toledo,” is satisfied with the arrangements.

Bernard “Pete” Culp suggested The Blade could help with the Valentine’s parking needs by making its employee parking lot available for public use during the theater’s evening events.

Joseph H. Zerbey IV, president and general manager of The Blade, responded that the newspaper’s parking lot is used by night-shift employees, and liability insurance concerns also would preclude opening the lot to the public for any purpose.

“The port authority should look to offering free parking in its Vistula garage to help with this effort,” Mr. Zerbey said.

But the cost of parking — for which Reu Park now charges between $5 and $7 for evening events, according to Mr. Thomas — has not been the issue for the Valentine, whose top administrator told The Blade last month that convenience and safety are the reasons its patrons prefer the lot across the street.

Toledo theater-goers wearing fancy clothes and dress shoes prefer not to have to walk several blocks, and downtown parking garages are unattended and poorly lit, general manager Jori Jex said.

“Our patrons, as a rule, use that parking lot,” Ms. Jex said. “The parking lot is accessible, affordable, and makes coming to the theater easier for them.”

The one benefit Mr. Kamilaris could see from building the bus station nearby, meanwhile, was that bus passengers who now wait on Jackson for buses would no longer visit his restaurant to use the restrooms, since the station is planned to offer such facilities.

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.



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