Tuesday, Oct 16, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Keith Burris

Spitzer Bldg. a test of our imaginations

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    The Spitzer Building at 520 Madison Ave. closed last week.

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I’ve been thinking about the Spitzer Building, a Toledo architectural and historical landmark that was closed last week.

Are we, as a community, going to let it go at that? Will we let this gem sit idle and rot, like one more discarded strip mall?

I think the Spitzer Building is a test case. It will test the willingness of the city and its leaders to take care of our city.

That’s what a leader is supposed to do. Not be popular. Not run for another job or office. But take care of the city. That is what we all should do.

But look at the extent of the blight and abandonment in our city. We have failed, just as so many other Ohio cities and towns have failed themselves.

We have failed to take care, and that is not acceptable.

Let's draw the line at the Spitzer. Let's save this beautiful old building. But how?

I invite your ideas. There have to be some good ones out there.

I’ve heard at least three so far:

One is to turn the Spitzer into a “mixed-use” development — apartments and lofts, some offices — which would require no major rehab, only repair, and businesses on the ground floor, where they have always been. But most people who know the building, or know downtown real estate, say the apartments are the key. Residential is working in downtown Toledo right now. Let's go with it.

The second is to move some of the University of Toledo downtown. This idea is not new. It might even be inevitable.

UT is going to keep growing. It hasn't got anyplace to go — nor much room to expand from its current footprint. Downtown, the old downtown business district, not the ballpark area, needs an infusion of people. Part of the Spitzer could easily be converted to classrooms.

Third, if Toledo became a hub for immigrants, as Columbus and St. Paul have, and as Toledo itself was once upon a time, we would add the one thing we lack in this city: new people. We have the cultural and physical assets. We need people.

The trouble with the first and second ideas is that we are simply moving people who are already here around, not bringing new people in. The third idea brings new people.

How do we do this? How do we become a magnet for legal immigration? First, we check all xenophobia at the door. Next, we learn. We ask St. Paul and Columbus what they did.

The Spitzer is a test case — in caring for our city and using our collective imaginations. Let's do this. Let's save the Spitzer.

Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade. Contact him at: kburris@theblade.com or 419-724-6266.

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