It's not the Warehouse District nor Uptown. It's not or won't be the Student Village area nor the Marina District. Those are or will be good walkable spots, but I'm talking about the best possible walkable area in Toledo.
In my opinion, the best area in Toledo that could one day be somewhat like downtown Ann Arbor or Bowling Green or even like downtown Perrysburg or Maumee would be a street appropriately named Main Street, which is located in East Toledo.
The specific walkable area I'm referring to would include Main St between Front St. and Starr Ave, and then Starr Ave going east to Parker Ave. This several block area is mostly lined with small to mid-sized buildings. It looks like the downtown of a small town. Unfortunately, many of these east side buildings are empty.
Walkable for visitors means park once and then walk the area, browsing, shopping, dining, enjoying entertainment, etc., instead of driving from place to place. A visitor would spend a morning or an afternoon or an evening checking out Main Street and Starr Ave. The walkable area should contain a mix of businesses that provide something for someone at any time of the day, and not just a bunch bars that get active at night.
Walkable for the residents means providing the basics like a grocery story, a hardware store, a barbershop or hair salon, the types of businesses visited weekly and monthly by the area residents. Visitors probably won't drive to the east side Main St to shop at the hardware store. But if the east side Main St. contained stores, restaurants, and entertainment not found elsewhere in the area, that would attract visitors, and who knows, they may wander into the hardware store.
The side streets along Main/Starr do or could contain additional businesses, which would increase the walkable area. The side streets looked nice and tree-lined with most containing housing up to the buildings, making for a cozy area like a small town.
( More opinions and photos from a November 2007 comment )
Another poster asked in the above thread: "How do we get back [what] we lost at Westgate?"
I say a place called Main Street in Toledo would be the ideal location. Look at the name: Main Street. Like a little town except it's close to The Docks and the Marina District if that ever happens. Neighborhoods butt up against Main Street. And this small business district extends up Main and along Starr Ave. Some interesting old buildings line Main and Starr. Vacancies exist there now. When was the last time you heard Main Street being discussed or promoted in the news?
My theory is, the East Side has been told to cool its jets until the Marina District gets built. As if somehow a Marina District development will magically spur positive changes on Main Street. Why wait for fantasy land to get built? I know the East Side has at least one community development org. What have they done for Main Street over the last 15 years? The Warehouse District didn't wait for a baseball stadium to be built before trying to improve that area.
Main Street is currently four lanes wide. Does it really need to be four lanes so people can speed by? Make it three lanes: one each way and the middle turn lane. Add more traffic lights maybe. You want people to slow down on Main Street and gawk.
The sidewalks along Main are too narrow. By removing a lane from Main Street, this should allow sidewalks to be widened for better streetscaping, so people have places to sit down. And I don't mean those pathetic-looking benches with advertising. Use attractive benches and larger planters that hold flowers or surround trees that have two or three foot high brick or concrete walls with wide, flat tops, so people can sit down.
Loitering on the sidewalk should be encouraged. It's Main Street. Walk, browse, converse, shop, eat, drink. Slow down. Wide sidewalks would allow some merchants to set up racks and displays outside, and restaurants and cafes could allow sidewalk dining.
Downtown Perrysburg has wide sidewalks, and during their First Friday's this summer, some of the small businesses had merchandise set up outside along the sidewalk. Perrysburg's wide sidewalks allow for them to hold their weekly farmers market downtown on the sidewalk. Wide sidewalks for business and foot traffic.
(Note how wide the sidewalks are in downtown Perrysburg.)
Look at the outdoor dining at The Docks :
It would be nice to replicate that along Main Street. But look how narrow the sidewalks are along Main :
The sidewalk area along Main Street is not inviting nor attractive. It doesn't look like it could handle a lot of foot traffic and business. Toledo's Main Street needs wide sidewalks like downtown Perrysburg or this :
But with those planters that serve as impromptu benches.
Of course, this is all fine during the 6 to 8 months of the year when the weather is decent. The place needs to still attract browsers and shoppers during the colder months and when it gets dark early.
Ideally, Toledo's Main Street would provide businesses that serve the people living in that area. But it would also offer unique businesses that would attract people to Main Street from other parts of Toledo and from other communities.
But it seems this area of Toledo is the Forgotten Town. It's as if Toledo ends at Front St. The river side of Front St is fine with Toledo, but the citizens and politicians seem to ignore the area east or south of Front St. With its interesting looking buildings and a location so close to the river, it's amazing that this Main St area is not more developed or better maintained and a destination area for the region.
Main Street plus Starr Ave plus the side streets should be an area to get lazy at and kill an afternoon. It's close enough to walk down to the river, and when or if the Marina District fantasy becomes reality, the walkable area would dramatically increase in size.
So what's happened to the Forgotten Town? What's the history here? Why hasn't the Main St/Starr Ave area progressed like the Warehouse District or even Uptown?
I think it's a myth that the new Mud Hens stadium revitalized the Warehouse District. That area was changing for the better long before the Hens announced its move to downtown. And if the Hens had not located in the WD, the WD would have still improved. The Hens did not select a decaying or stagnant area. The Hens chose an already improving area. It was a smart move for the Hens that benefits both the Hens and that area of downtown.
I would say Kathy Steingraber and her Warehouse District Association gets most of the credit for revitalizing the Warehouse District. I know the East Side contains an org or two that's interested in economic development. Don Monroe is or was executive director of River East Economic Revitalization Association. Does this org still exist? Has this org ever tried to help revitalize Main St/Starr Ave? Is their big accomplishment The Docks restaurants? That's a nice accomplishment, indeed. Outside dining along the river. But that five restaurant project opened about 10 years ago. What's happened on the East Side since?
East Side thinking
The Warehouse District started changing for the better in the early or mid-90's, at least. Why didn't the East Side Main St/Starr Ave area also begin its revitalization in the early to mid-90's? Are they waiting for the Marina District project to be completed? The Marina District project has been in some kind of planning stage, since 2000, I think. It's still three to five years away from being completed. And if it's completed, then what? Will Main St/Starr Ave be magically transformed also, simply because the Marina District exists?
I have a feeling that's the thinking. "Let's not do anything to help Main St/Starr Ave until the Marina District project is complete. Once the MD is done, the positive pieces will all fall into place for the Main St/Starr Ave area."
Over the past few years, many areas of downtown Toledo on the west side of the river have received new streetscaping that includes new sidewalks, curbs, and nice pavers or bricks that define the crosswalks. Some spots have new lampposts. It looks nice. The Warehouse District area has a lot this new streetscaping, but it hasn't reached Main St on the east side.
The intersection of Main and Starr may have received something, but it doesn't look like the streetscaping done in the Warehouse District. In fact, new pavement exists from the MLK/Cherry St bridge to the intersection of Front and Main. Why didn't this new pavement continue up Main to Starr? Why hasn't Main St received new sidewalks curbs and fancy crosswalks like the west side of the river?
Insights into lively downtown
Feb 18, 2007 posting at the old version of Toledo Talk titled Insights Into A Lively Downtown.
Link to Kirk's video.
Excerpts from an April 2009 opinion by Kirk Westphal titled Active-use provision is vital to keep downtown humming
Q: What is an "active use" requirement?
A: It's a zoning regulation designed to keep a downtown's key streets shopper-friendly. Experts have long known that pedestrians prefer walking next to window-shoppable places like retail stores, cafes and restaurants - all considered "active uses" - when going from one destination to another because they offer tangible items to look at and buy. Many non-retail businesses - such as financial services or real estate agencies - are considered "inactive" because of their limited hours, low pedestrian activity and poor window displays. Given a choice, pedestrians avoid them. The dead zones they create can spell trouble for adjacent shops that rely on walk-in customers.
Q: Are we trying to get rid of non-retail businesses?
A: Absolutely not. Those companies are an integral part of the employment base and functioning of downtown. If this requirement is enacted, existing businesses could stay where they are indefinitely. Even new buildings could have inactive tenants at ground level - just not so much that they dominate the street.
Q: Do active-use regulations work?
A: Yes, but they work best as a preventative measure. Many municipalities can trace their regulations back to complaints from shopkeepers about new banks or offices killing pedestrian traffic on their blocks. By that point, however, it's often too late.
But one discipline has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to the importance of active uses.
Q: Who's that?
A: Shopping mall designers. Having spent millions on customer research, they knew long ago that an inactive use is disastrous for surrounding businesses - which is why you don't see banks or insurance companies in malls. It's one of many strategies that enabled them to decimate downtown retail over the years. (Ironically, their latest creations are shopping centers that resemble actual downtowns, which are now replacing malls. [Levis Commons]) Promoting active uses is just one way a downtown can take advantage of mall science to fight back.
Q: Why doesn't the market take care of this? Does it really need regulation?
A: The free market assumes that maximizing individual profit is best for everyone, and that people can move at will. But this is not the case downtown. An inactive business with extensive street frontage actually harms its neighbors. And given the finite amount of prime real estate in the city, a shop may not be able to find another desirable location. Banks in particular are anomalies of the downtown rental market.
Q: What if a property owner has trouble finding a retail tenant? Wouldn't we be better off with an inactive use than an empty storefront?
A: A landlord "having trouble finding a retail tenant" may be code for "not wanting to take a chance on a Mom and Pop." Leasing to a bank or office may fill a vacancy, but it ignores the long-term potential of creating empty storefronts next door. Limiting the number of inactive uses on a block gives everyone a chance to thrive. But don't take just anyone's word for it: Ask the manager of a book store or restaurant who's on the wrong side of a bank.
East Side Photos
Photos taken on July 29, 2007. View larger versions of the photos by clicking on my flickr photo stream for Main St/Starr Ave
I have some nice memories from the 1990's at Frankies if I could only remember them. I forgot to take a frontal photo shot of the old Main Event building, which was another place I visited often back in the 90's. I saw Korn play at the Main Event in Sep 95.
Looking toward the river at Front and Main
Walking up Main St with an occasional look back at the tall building with the missing tooth.
River East Art Glass is in the building with the yellowish front.
Intersection of Main and Starr
Walking along Starr Ave
Intersection of East Broadway and Starr Ave. I crossed Starr here and headed back, but you can see more businesses or buildings continue along Starr until the next cross street, which is Parker Ave.
Walking back along Starr to Main. Sad to see so many empty buildings, but a lot of empty buildings exist on the other side of the river downtown too.
Back at the intersection of Starr and Main.
Headed back down Main St.
Walking along Front St that borders the Weber Block building. I parked in back of the Weber building.
Side streets along Main St included 2nd, 4th, and 6th. I don't remember which side streets these are.