Toledo’s Junction neighborhood soon will see a dilapidated vacant lot turned into a public space for residents to enjoy.
The city-owned plot at the intersection of Nebraska and Junction Avenues is home to a few trees, some old garden boxes, and concrete from a structure torn down two decades ago, but a $30,000 grant will help change that. City officials were recently approved for the National Recreation and Park Association funding that will allow them to clear the site of debris and construct an outdoor entertainment space.
A vacant lot on the southeast corner of Nebraska and Junction avenues near St. Anthony Catholic Church is pictured Thursday in Toledo.
“We will build a stage, and with earthen works and soils we will create an amphitheater seating area for the neighborhood to sit and enjoy whatever production is put on the stage,” said Paul Rasmusson, the city’s director of public service.
Ryan Bunch, communications and outreach coordinator for the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo, has been working with leaders from the Junction Coalition, Frederick Douglass Center, and Soul City Boxing to improve the largely African-American neighborhood.
“My understanding is there hasn’t been significant investment in that neighborhood since the late 1980s,” he said. “It’s a rich, vibrant community. It’s a great neighborhood, and I’m just excited to see that this community-led action they’ve been participating in is going to help transform a space.”
Mr. Bunch said the vacant lot, referred to as Junction Park, has come up time and again in community conversations.
“It’s essentially a blighted piece of property that the residents would like to be a cultural park space,” he said. “We met with a variety of youth and elders in the community, and they identified a few things they wanted to see: a reading area, walking path, some benches, and a performing space.”
Councilman Yvonne Harper, who represents District 4 where the park is located, said she is happy to see an entertainment space built in the neighborhood, but she questioned whether there will be electricity available.
“There are no current plans for electricity there,” Mr. Rasmusson said.
The park is located diagonally across the street from St. Anthony Church, which the Lucas County Land Bank is soon to acquire from the Diocese of Toledo after a community effort to stop the diocese’s plans to demolish the long-vacant building.
Community leaders and elected officials alike praised the preservation effort, and Land Bank board members soon will begin meeting with area residents to develop a strategy for how to renovate the church.
Officials hope work on Junction Park can be completed before winter, ensuring an attractive usable space will be ready to compliment whatever St. Anthony ultimately becomes for the neighborhood.
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