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 to 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 smallish 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.
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.
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
Starr Ave 174-183
190-193 east broadway intersection