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Historic South Initiative reinvesting in the Old South End

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    Candy Brower holds her 20-month-old niece Lily as she talks about the home renovation the organization Historic South Initiative had assisted her with in South Toledo. The Historic South Initiative's revitalization effort will concentrate on a four-block area in South Toledo. They plan to use grants from the government combined with matching donations from private companies to renovate and revitalize homes in the neighborhood over the next two years. Fifth Third Bank Foundation donated $50,000 to the program as part of their $30 billion Strengthening Our Community grant program.

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    Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz, left, and Historic South Initiative board member Janet Hickey, right, listen as Bob LaClair, chief executive officer and president at Fifth Third Bank, speaks inside a newly renovated home in South Toledo. The Historic South Initiative has renovated a three-bedroom, one-bathroom, 1,200-square-foot house located at 426 Crittenden Ave. in Toledo. The house is being listed at $50,000, and is part of a revitalization effort of a four-block area in South Toledo spearheaded by the initiative.

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    Homes line the block as viewed from the picture window in the living room of a house the Historic South Initiative renovated at 426 Crittenden Ave. in Toledo.

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    Bob LaClair, chief executive officer and president at Fifth Third Bank, left, Historic South Initiative board member Janet Hickey, center left, listen as Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz, center, speaks inside a newly renovated home Tuesday in South Toledo.

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    The Historic South Initiative has renovated a three-bedroom, one-bathroom, 1,200-square-foot houseat 426 Crittenden Ave. in Toledo.

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A single-family home in the Old South End is in need of a buyer, someone who will want to live in the renovated beige and white two-story for at least five years and who cares about the vitality of the neighborhood.

That’s a requirement to move in to 426 Crittenden Ave., one of the first bunch of homes that have been either completely remodeled or fixed up through the Historic South Initiative, an organization working to revitalize the neighborhood and promote stable employment and families.

The initiative received $300,000 in state grant money, and on Tuesday announced it will accept a $50,000 grant from the Fifth Third Foundation’s Strengthening Our Communities Fund. Fifth Third Bank joins other organizations, including ProMedica and KeyBank, in contributing matching funds that will allow the Historic South Initiative to invest $600,000 in dozens of homes in the Old South End.

“Toledo is going through a bit of a renaissance in downtown right now. There’s great things happening in our central business district, and I think that’s going to continue, but we would be remiss if we didn't focus on the neighborhoods that support our downtown,” Bob LaClair, president of Fifth Third’s northwest Ohio region, said Tuesday.

The $50,000 will be paired with state funding and be spent on lead abatement and house rehabilitation, said Chris Amato, president of Historic South Initiative.

The organization already has facilitated and funded two full remodels on vacant houses and has two more planned, but its main focus is on completing much-needed improvements to homes that are owner or tenant-occupied, Mr. Amato said.

“We’re doing roofs, siding, painting, foundations — those types of things,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is increase the market value for everybody in the neighborhood.”

Candy Brower, 55, has lived on Crittenden Avenue for 40 years and said she is happy to see the Historic South Initiative take an interest in the neighborhood. She pointed out project after project down her block — new windows, painted siding, a new roof — and said her foundation is next on the list, at no cost to her.

“They’re just helping out all kinds of people in the neighborhood. It’s a great program,” she said. 

Janet Hickey, 63, lives on Western Avenue with her husband, Donald Hickey, 64, who was born and raised on the block. She joined the Historic South Initiative’s board of trustees and helps identify properties that need to be remodeled or would benefit from a home improvement project.

“They’re going door to door and saying, ‘What is it you need? How can we help you?’” she said. “I’ve stared at some houses that were in disrepair for many years, and so I’m so excited to think that these plans are finally going to come through. I just can’t wait.”

Mr. Amato said Historic South Initiative is focusing on the 80 homes that sit on four blocks of Crittenden and Western avenues for now but plans to expand its home improvement projects farther into the neighborhood in the coming years with the help of other local organizations.

“We aren’t doing this alone,” Mr. Amato said. “We’re doing this in collaboration with all these partners.”

Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz on Tuesday called the reinvestment in the Old South End work that must be done in order to make Toledo and its neighborhoods a better place for the next generation.

“For Toledo to really turn the corner to become that place that we all want it to be, we need economic energy in our neighborhoods,” he said. “This is such a crucial part of that puzzle.”

Contact Sarah Elms at selms@theblade.com419-724-6103, or on Twitter @BySarahElms.

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