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Film puts spotlight on Toledo

1st in series of documentaries looks at negatives, bright spots

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Nick Corbin and others watch a screening of ‘Reclaiming Spaces,’ a film about revitalization in downtown Toledo, at Seed Coworking in Toledo. The film, produced by Mr. Corbin and Kim Sanchez in partnership with the Downtown Toledo Develop-ment Corp., will eventually be used as a tool to recruit people and businesses to the city.

THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY
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To draw people and businesses to downtown Toledo, local filmmakers are shining an honest spotlight on the city's center, showing warts and all.

The first installment in an ongoing documentary series, Reclaiming Spaces, was screened Friday at Seed Coworking in Toledo's Warehouse District.

The 25-minute film focuses on small business owners throughout downtown, and local officials with a stake in Toledo's redevelopment.

The interviewees included Paul Toth of the Port Authority; Josh Wagy and Kengo Kato, owners of Kengo Sushi & Yakatori; Doug Kampfer and Jeremy Link of Graphite Design and Build; Doni Miller of the Neighborhood Health Association; and Scott Ciolek, an attorney and owner of Bleak House Coffee.

Nick Corbin, one of the film’s producers, said that although some questions were sent to interview subjects in advance, all spoke openly about what's happening in downtown Toledo, what stands in the way of advancement, and the optimism they see as the city moves forward.

Perhaps most candid was Mr. Ciolek.

“People are concerned with the aesthetic of downtown,” Mr. Ciolek, 40, said, his voice laid over images of crumbling curbs and streets with potholes. “It takes away from people's ability to invest in downtown just now.”

Still, the film's partners said the unfiltered look at where downtown is and where it can go should attract newcomers.

“We want to show the positive things, but we want to show the dirt, obviously, and the negative,” said Mr. Corbin, 30. 

“It'll be a realistic recruitment tool showing every aspect of its greatness and … the shortfalls.”

Said Bill Thomas, president of the Downtown Toledo Development Corp.: “We want to use it to take out of town to show businesses what's going on in Toledo, big or small, and start to lure more people here. It’s not just everybody here shuffling around that's going to make a difference; it's that new influence. We want to draw people in.”

Working on the project gave Mr. Corbin, a lifelong Toledoan, a new perspective on the city. Going into the project, he said he was down on Toledo and viewed the city negatively and saw no reason to be in or explore downtown.

Speaking with business owners and seeing what’s become available in recent years “changed my perception entirely.”

Mr. Corbin worked with Kim Sanchez, 25, of Toledo, who operates the film company Reel Ohio, to produce the documentary, in partnership with the Downtown Toledo Development Corporation, Toledo Design Center, Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, and the Arts Commission.

The project is ongoing and has planned for three additional films, focusing on culture, residences, and small businesses. The next film in the series about culture could be released in the spring, Mr. Corbin said.

A brief trailer of the documentary is available on the Toledo Design Center's YouTube site.

Contact Taylor Dungjen at tdungjen@theblade.com, or 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @taylordungjen.

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