Toledo Talk

Maybe the best location in Toledo for a walkable area

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.

Forgotten Town

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?

Warehouse District

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.

Kirk Westphal, a recent graduate of the University of Michigan's Master of Urban Planning program, examines what makes a downtown district appealing in this 19-minute documentary.

Link to Kirk's video.

Active-use Provision

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.

created by jr on Jul 30, 2007 at 08:09:04 am
updated by jr on May 02, 2009 at 02:07:47 pm
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Comments ... #

Jr - I completely agree with you.

I actually lived on the East Side briefly when I first moved to the Toledo area. It both surprised and saddened me that "Main Street" was so neglected. There's so much interesting architecture along the corridor you described.

(As I said - at the time I was new to Toledo, and I was completely clueless about the history of Toledo and the East Side being overlooked for everything. But as a naive newcomer, it seemed like the perfect place to do some development.)

posted by mom2 on Aug 06, 2007 at 10:48:36 am     #  

When I used to bicycle more I liked either the jaunt down River Road, and then over to Perrysburg. Sometimes I would go over the MLK bridge to the East Side. It was nice going through the parts of town you show.

posted by oldsendbrdy on Aug 06, 2007 at 04:31:49 pm     #  

An interesting book titled "East Toledo at Work: A History of Business & Industry of East Toledo."

The 218-page book is more a collection of photos, than stories. For many of you, the stories will be the personal ones you conjure up when you see these buildings, many of which have been razed. If you’re 45 or older, this visual trip through the past will not only awaken personal memories, it will touch you with sadness.

In 1950, there were 650 firms doing business in East Toledo, many of them industrial companies. They paid working wages for hard working men and women. Today, there are 300 companies, the lowest number since the turn of the Twentieth Century.

Those who grew up in the 1950s will enjoy the many photos of corner gas stations and convenient stores. Naturally, there’s a photo of Cal Gettings’ Sunoco station at Starr and Dearborn, which in the late 1980s was the oldest continually operated Sunoco station in the country. And, you’ll remember taking your date to the Tivoli Theatre or the Frostop Root Beer Drive-In.

The book is the first planned effort to celebrate the 200 th anniversary of East Toledo, Michaels says. Peter and Robert Navarre settled here in 1807.

Long ago, a business that occupied the ground floor of either the Friedman Block building or the East Side Masonic Temple building was called Finkbeiner Furniture, which was operated by Carty's Grandfather.

You can view some old photos at the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library Web site here.

This is at the intersection of Front and Main with your back to the river, looking up Main. The street was widened years later by moving the buildings back 15 feet, something like that. That's the Weber Block building in the foreground on the left.

Friedman Block building.

Toledo Christ Cathedral

In this photo, I believe the construction around the buildings is part of the big move, so Main St could be widened. You can also see the streetcar tracks in this photo. The lampposts were fancier back then.

Here's a closeup, showing a building during its move. The businesses remained opened during the project.

posted by jr on Aug 07, 2007 at 04:23:46 pm     #  

Via a Nov 19, 2007 Joel on Software posting >>

Web site : Walk Score - creates a walkable score for an address.

We help homebuyers, renters, and real estate agents find houses and apartments in great neighborhoods. Walk Score shows you a map of what's nearby and calculates a Walk Score for any property. Buying a house in a walkable neighborhood is good for your health and good for the environment. Walk Score helps people find walkable places to live. Walk Score calculates the walkability of an address by locating nearby stores, restaurants, schools, parks, etc. Check out how Walk Score doesn't work.

Higher the score, the more walkable the area. My home address in West Toledo scored a 37, which seems generous to me. The Web site will create a Google map mashup, showing businesses and orgs near the address entered.

Your Walk Score is a number between 0 and 100. The walkability of an address depends on how far you are comfortable walking—after all, everything is within walking distance if you have the time. Here are general guidelines for interpreting your score:
  • 90 - 100 = Walkers' Paradise: Most errands can be accomplished on foot and many people get by without owning a car.
  • 70 - 90 = Very Walkable: It's possible to get by without owning a car.
  • 50 - 70 = Some Walkable Locations: Some stores and amenities are within walking distance, but many everyday trips still require a bike, public transportation, or car.
  • 25 - 50 = Not Walkable: Only a few destinations are within easy walking range. For most errands, driving or public transportation is a must.
  • 0 - 25 = Driving Only: Virtually no neighborhood destinations within walking range. You can walk from your house to your car!

All of the locations shown on Walk Score come directly from the Google Maps API. Unfortunately, some listings may be missing or out of date. Business owners can go here to update their listings. Google does not provide a way for people to update the business listings in their neighborhood.

We are able to filter out some bad results manually using Google search operators. If you see an incorrect result, please let us know and we will try to remove it from Walk Score.

Any areas in Toledo scoring 70 or higher?

posted by jr on Nov 27, 2007 at 01:12:03 pm     #