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Published: 11/15/2013 - Updated: 5 months ago

COMMENTARY

How far out is too far out?

BY KEITH C. BURRIS
COLUMNIST FOR THE BLADE

A few weeks ago, we knocked around the concept of “elephants in the room” here — longstanding local Toledo problems, and maybe possible solutions, that are so big, so obvious, nobody talks about them.

We'll return to that subject. Meanwhile, let's talk about another concept, one much abused, but still useful: the “out-of-the box” idea.

Just what is an out-of-the box idea? How far out of the box is too far out? To me, it’s simply a fresh thought from the unsanctioned, non-expert thinker.

What is too far out?

Only the patently absurd or fantastic. Short of launching the next space shuttle from Fallen Timbers, every idea is fair game.

Here are five outside-the-box ideas for Toledo development, all from residents who care. No blue-ribbon panels. Just folks looking for what might help.

● With respect to Toledo Express Airport: Fresh ideas are welcome. But any new prospective or partial owner, or manager, should have to show he has a real plan. Expertise, a detailed business plan, and the major stakeholders would all have to be on the table.

But the big question is not public versus private. It is how to attract new carriers, be they freight or passenger airlines.

Maybe we could learn from Akron-Canton airport, and even Tweed Airport in New Haven, Conn. Both of those airports, overshadowed by bigger airports in bigger cities, essentially died and have now been revived by welcoming the newer and smaller players in the industry. AirTran, for example, goes to Akron-Canton. It does not fly into Toledo. Yet its last flight to Detroit from the hub of Atlanta, for example, is at 5:30 at night.

Feasibility work and numbers crunching would have to be done. But flying into Toledo could be an option from Detroit and Dearborn, Ann Arbor, and even Flint, as well as all the communities of northwest Ohio.

Downtown:

● We missed the opportunity to put the casino downtown on the water. What about a water park? Again, numbers would have to be crunched. But it's dangerously close to Opal Covey's rapturous vision, so it's certainly outside the box.

● A reader suggests micro-breweries or even micro-stills, and build restaurants around that. Again, use the riverfront.

● Still another suggests a culinary arts academy. This reader says: “Food always works.” It certainly has near the ballpark. And keep it affordable.

A final idea that intrigues me — I am told it came from Mayor Mike Bell at a neighborhood forum during the campaign — entice the University of Toledo to bring its law school downtown.

I don't know if that is realistic. But I know two approaches that don't cut it: Simply wallowing in nostalgia about how great the downtown used to be, and shrugging and saying we probably can't do much of anything.

We need an outside-the-box conversation about mid-size, doable initiatives that haven't been on anybody's list thus far.

Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.

Contact him at: kburris@theblade.com or 419-724-6266.



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