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Plans for downtown include better riverfront access, more green space

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Downtown Toledo

THE BLADE
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A vision for downtown Toledo’s future includes more parks, improved traffic flow, and an emphasis on riverfront development.

A standing-room crowd in the Main Library’s McMaster Center heard the pitch at the second of three public meetings to introduce the plan to rehabilitate Toledo’s downtown core.

The meeting was hosted by the 22nd Century Committee, a public-private partnership that is leading the downtown master plan’s development.

Speakers offered several facets of development that would rearrange traffic patterns, add green space, expand riverfront access, and encourage residential and business development.

Randy Morton of the architecture firm HKS, which is heading up downtown urban design on the project, called on Toledo to stop “turning its back” on the Maumee River, telling the audience that development starts there.

“Take something that has underperforming value and make it worth a lot more,” he said, calling the Maumee “a river of gold.”

“I think it’s really peculiar the way your city looks in the other direction,” he said.

Continuous riverfront access and green space was emphasized, including as a tool to revitalize the Vistula neighborhood. Mr. Morton said Toledo needs to “get the junk off the river” in that area.

“No one needs to store salt there,” he said, referring to cargo docks along the riverfront just downstream from downtown Toledo.

Adding a potential 320 acres of parks — or 20 percent of the downtown area compared with the current 2 percent dedicated to parks — would put Toledo on par with other successful cities such as Chicago, he said.

The plan presented Wednesday also included a vision where the Warehouse District is a hub for startups and can incubate new businesses. Building on the success of Hensville and other projects, the plan calls for remodeling or moving the SeaGate Convention Centre to improve access between Fifth Third Field, the Huntington Center, and the rest of downtown.

Residential demand has the potential to support 1,500 units downtown, according to the plan.

Attendee Lou Soltis, who runs an engineering firm in East Toledo, said he felt energized by what he heard at Wednesday’s meeting.

“I like the creation of ease of movement through town,” he said. ”[Now] there’s one-way streets and buildings that are underutilized. Free-flow would help the city.”

Mr. Soltis said he liked an idea presented that some downtown streets that run perpendicular to the Maumee would be extended all the way to the river. “Everybody wants to get to the river,” he said.

The plan is available for review and public comment at downtowntoledoplan.com. The next meeting is July 12 at 5 p.m., also at the Main Library. A final plan is expected to be delivered in August.

Contact Lauren Lindstrom at llindstrom@theblade.com, 419-724-6154, or on Twitter @lelindstrom.

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