EconCat88 is back at work with several new videos, one featuring him apparently trespassing in a vacant downtown hotel and another taunting a critic of his unflattering videos to buy a boarded-up house in North Toledo and move there.
The male narrator of four new videos posted on YouTube that last as long as 10 minutes remains anonymous as he has been in dozens of other similar videos pointing out the seediest parts of Toledo.
EconCat88 refused again Thursday to respond to an email or a phone call. The Blade believes it knows the identity of EconCat88 based on tips received after the first of several articles ran on Nov. 24. The Blade has knocked on the door of his residence, a plain bungalow off Dorr Street near the University of Toledo, not much different from many of the houses that sweep before his camera as he drives around North Toledo making caustic comments.
In one new 10-minute piece, EconCat88 and a friend venture into the Park Hotel, an abandoned transient hotel and restaurant near the Amtrak station in Toledo’s Old South End.
“The point of this video is these downtown-homers keeping talking about how great everything is downtown. This is not much more than a good shout from downtown, yet not a peep about this from the newspaper. Not a peep about this from the folks in the Warehouse District and all the various homers throughout Toledo,” EconCat88 says.
As he prowls the building with a friend, he repeatedly calls out to anyone who might be inside. “If you’re up here, we’re harmless, just announce yourself so we don’t get surprised by your presence. That probably won’t end well for you,” he says.
While driving on Page Street in North Toledo on a Sunday morning, a neighborhood he’s featured before because of its many vacant lots and boarded-up houses, EconCat88 criticizes those who have criticized him for excessive negativity after several Blade stories about the series of videos.
He called out a woman from Sylvania Township, who wrote in a letter to the editor chastising The Blade for devoting an article to EconCat88’s extensive library of negative portrayals of Toledo.
Nancy Ankney of Sylvania Township wrote that: “Toledo does not need this negativity. Because the critic exists and has made videos, that doesn’t rationalize the high exposure that you have given him.”
A ruffled EconCat88 accused the critic of contributing to Toledo’s decay by moving to the suburbs.
“There was some lady from Sylvania Township that had plenty to say about the negativity of my videos, and I find it somewhat ironic that somebody from Sylvania Township would have anything to say about Toledo, because frankly, all you folks that have ran to the suburbs over the last 30-40 years, you’re actually as responsible for these problems as anybody,” EconCat88 said as he drove along.
He challenges her, “Why don’t you come down here, buy one of these dumpy houses, refurbish it, move into it, and put Toledo back on the path to whatever your version of recovery is?”
As he’s driving, the narrator points to a house he speculates his critic could buy for $400, even though the real estate sign says $9,000.
Ms. Ankney could not be reached for comment.
During the video taken inside the Park Hotel, EconCat88 called on Blade writers Nolan Rosen-krans and Tom Troy to write articles about the establishment.
Every room and hallway is smeared with graffiti. Windows and sinks are broken. Paint peels on walls and ceilings. EconCat88 can’t seem to decide whether it’s a historic gem or “at the tear-down stage,” as he says at one point.
It’s also hard to tell whether EconCat88 is motivated by compassion for the poor, nostalgia for Toledo of a bygone day, or hostility toward “Toledo homers” who seek to conceal the seedier reality of Toledo.
“This is the Toledo that a lot of folks don’t want to admit exists, and I know it does exist, and that’s what these videos are about, to show everyone else it exists. You know what’s a shame. This place probably provided a lot of shelter for folks that just couldn’t afford otherwise, seniors or retirees that don’t have much income, just the working poor. They don’t want to talk about that. They all think everybody lives in yuppieville, and that’s not reality," EconCat88 says.
The old hotel at 201 Knapp St. is owned by Vincent and Teresa Porter of Maumee, according to the Lucas County Auditor’s Web site. They bought it in 2007 for $137,500, along with two adjacent buildings. They could not be reached for comment. Across a parking lot is the Martin Luther King, Jr., Plaza, which houses the Amtrak station and the offices of the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments.
The video makes it appear to have been easily accessed through two unsecured doors.
The hotel’s streetfront bar-restaurant was open as recently as 2008 under the name Club Prestige.
The Blade reported in 2001 that the 92-room hotel was being shut down and sold because the owner could not afford to repair a broken boiler.
Constructed in 1909, the three-story brick hotel served for more than half a century as a temporary home for train crews and passengers who wanted a day or two away from the rails.
The Blade published a photo of the building and its ghostly sign, “Park Hotel Rooms Day Week,” in a Toledo Magazine photo feature in 2011.