Toledo Talk

Ideas for Downtown part II: new convention center

This was discussed a little previously, but what do people think about a new, more modern - and slightly larger - convention center?

I remember reading a Blade article a while back about how the Seagate Center was missing out on convention business because it was too small.

Downtown has made a lot of progress in the last 10 years, and a new convention center someplace could add to that momentum. The block between the arena and ballpark has too much potential to be taken up by the big, bulky Seagate Center. This area is downtown's emerging entertainment district, and it seems like the land could be put to better use. Also, Huron is the only through-street that connects the arena to the Warehouse District. A second artery - like reconnecting St. Clair - would really tie it all together.

created by housebeats on Mar 20, 2010 at 10:54:06 am     Other     Comments: 34

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I think the Seagate Center is a good size for a city like Toledo. I think the reason it doesn't get bigger events is the lack of decent hotel rooms in the downtown area. The two hotels connected to it need complete overhauls, and the Crowne Plaza needs some work too.

posted by muddyriverduck on Mar 20, 2010 at 01:41:26 pm     #  

Seagate will not come down for another 20-30 years. It's too new (built 1987) and there was so much chicanery to get it built in the first place (i.e. a series of election "no" votes by the public who didn't want the thing built, only to be rammed through by the county commissioners through political maneuvers) that I don't think a second one could get built. A center of that quality would probably now cost 2-3 times as much.

Oh, and in 2010 we're already 48 million in debt. Can't forget that.

Biggest problem isn't the size--it's the fact that downtown is, for the most part, the dark side of the moon as far as many people are concerned. Crime. Poor hotels (as noted above). Stretches of empty buildings. Nothing to do in downtown without driving through a zone of poverty in any direction to get to the suburbs where shopping and entertainment are.

Why would someone book a business convention or meeting in such a place? Even for a smaller convention, a suburban hotel with access to things to do AFTER meetings (the Perrysburg French Quarter comes to mind) seems like such a better choice.

Please don't use the Mud Hens or Walleye as a selling point. They play about 120 home dates per year and not everyone likes sports. Drive to downtown at 7:30PM on a non-game night and let me know how many things of interest you could find for a business traveler at a convention to do. Bet its a short list...

posted by oldhometown on Mar 20, 2010 at 02:11:27 pm     #  

So downtown needs some major improvement in the hotel department - for starters. I thought Crowne Plaza recently had its rooms renovated?

I don't think crime is as bad as some people perceive. The Warehouse District feels very safe, even at night - especially during the warmer months when the bar crowd is out late.

But the French Quarter... seriously? Aside from being a nice themed-hotel, how does Perrysburg top downtown in attractions? It's true most shopping is in the suburbs, but I disagree about all the entertainment being there, too. What do the suburbs have besides movie theaters and a comedy club? Considering bars and nightclubs, downtown has a leg up on any part of the region.

Downtown is also very close to the new casino. Tell me the out-of-town convention crowd wouldn't like to see what that's all about.

posted by housebeats on Mar 20, 2010 at 05:21:04 pm     #  

crime is NOT bad downtown, and more and more on any given evening (after work) i'm seeing more and more people hanging out. just laast week i was downtown for a meeting at 6pm and when I left around 7 I spotted two sets of joggers and many people coming and going from the bars & restaurants on monroe street.

As far as the casino Housebeats.. it's not headed for downtown (unfortunately) but it should bring some more traffic our way for sure!

posted by upso on Mar 20, 2010 at 07:59:27 pm     #  

When the arena was being planned, there were discussions about how that additional space could be used to enhance/compliment the space in the convention center. The 'management' of the two facilities was combined with just that thought in mind, though the running of the sports teams was to be handled by the MudHens board/structure.

Additionally, I believe the county refinanced some of the bonds for the convention center as part of the arena financing. A portion of the hotel/motel tax pays for those bonds (principle and interest).

posted by MaggieThurber on Mar 21, 2010 at 09:27:40 am     #  

Why would crime be bad downtown, especially at night? There's nothing to steal. Burglaries and robberies take place outside downtown, where people live and work, and where wealth exists and isn't so protected.

posted by GuestZero on Mar 21, 2010 at 11:06:06 am     #  

Willie Sutton: "I rob banks because that's where the money is.

This Charter One is downtown .

posted by oldsendbrdy on Mar 21, 2010 at 11:23:06 am     #  

Besides the obvious of the Walleye,Mudhens and shows at the new arena,there is the Valentine,Art Museum,Repertoire Theater,Cosi,The Docks,Jazz /Blues Clubs,Dance Clubs and many fine restaurants in the Downtown area.There are many things to do if one only looks around and has an open mind.Also,the Toledo Zoo is only a few minutes from Downtown Toledo.I don't know about anybody else, but my idea of entertainment is not going shopping.I would rather poke a stick in my eye than to go shopping at one of the local malls.Downtown Toledo is far from perfect,but there is much more to offer than Perrysburg or Maumee.

posted by buckeye278 on Mar 21, 2010 at 01:41:25 pm     #  

"Why would crime be bad downtown, especially at night? There's nothing to steal. Burglaries and robberies take place outside downtown, where people live and work, and where wealth exists and isn't so protected."

I agree.While I am Downtown enjoying myself I should be more worried about my house in the burbs being broken into than what might happen in Downtown Toledo.

posted by buckeye278 on Mar 21, 2010 at 01:47:06 pm     #  

absolutely.

posted by upso on Mar 21, 2010 at 02:50:33 pm     #  

When I used to go to mid-size and smallish conventions (Mobile, Ft. Worth, Nashville, Salt Lake) I enjoyed the trip when I could do certain things outside of regulated convention hours: get last-minute tickets to a sporting event, walk for exercise in an interesting area, have a nice dinner either alone or with new acquaintances, visit historic sites, or shop in a store that was unique or which showcased a local specialty.

Usually I was tired from paying attention to presentations and socializing, so I only did what was convenient to the hotel, within a one-mile walk. If I had to get in my car and drive across town for something, I skipped it.

A sporting event was an interesting diversion because of local teams or exciting venues (like Hens stadium), not because I cared about sports at all. It could have been a ballet or monster trucks, too!

I think downtown Toledo already has almost all the ingredients to please conventioneers. Do our visitors enjoy their hotel stays? Can they get the information they need to take advantage of anything outside the Seagate Center? For example, do they know they could walk along the river through the OI campus and end up at a bar or pastry shop in a historic building? Walk through the warehouse district and get coffeehouse entertainment at Downtown Latte, then shop at Libbey Glass? Or does the tourist information advise them to get in their cars and drive to the mall?

There was a problem before when the Seagate management wouldn't let any local restaurant flyers be distributed to convention attendees, to try to monopolize the lunch business. I hope that's changed.

posted by viola on Mar 21, 2010 at 02:53:05 pm     #  

OK, point taken kids. Downtown is just great. I apologize for not seeing all the things to do there and that crime is apparently been cleaned up to a tolerable level.

So the question goes back to this: if there are things to do (other than poking your eye out with a stick while shopping), crime is not a problem, and all the ingredients are there, why do we not have a successful, bustling downtown? What is the problem?

marketing? Perception?

Parking (over) enforcement? Parking cost?

Government mismanagement of public spaces and investments(No more Rally by the Rivers at Riverside Park, Erie Street Market fiasco, COSI, etc.)?

White flight?

No district residents with money?

Lack of retail (sorry Buckeye278, a distinct retail would boost economic activity in the area. Please put down the stick...)

I like this thread. Hope some of our local leaders check in every once in a while!

P.S.--I forgot about the new casino. I agree that will help the downtown area (but not directly since it will not be located in downtown).

posted by oldhometown on Mar 21, 2010 at 03:49:26 pm     #  

Why would I pay to park downtown when I can get all the free parking I need going a few miles to a grocery store or department store? Unless stores are built with parking no one is going to shop downtown unless they have money to throw at privately owned parking.

posted by oldsendbrdy on Mar 21, 2010 at 05:05:25 pm     #  

There seems to be no reason for a "downtown" Toledo with the way things are. Larger towns managed to retain their downtown for some reason or other. Maybe it is because they actually have people living downtown. I remember going to Cleveland to visit my grandparents in the 1950's. They lived in a seven-story tenement. I do not think any such thing existed in Toledo. If people wanted to live downtown where would they feed and entertain themselves? I think it is too far gone, and will never return.

posted by oldsendbrdy on Mar 21, 2010 at 05:13:13 pm     #  

I go Downtown for entertainment and the restaurants period.Obviously it would be nice to add some retail into the mix.For me, shopping is not entertainment.It is something that I must do.Thus,I look at it as a chore and not something I enjoy.To each his own.If I have to shop, I stay in the burbs.If I want to be entertained,I head Downtown.I find myself going Downtown much more than to the Malls.If hanging out at Walmart is your cup of tea, then have at it.For us,it is the Walleye, Mud Hens,The Docks and the many nice restaurants and clubs Downtown.I have not said that it is perfect Downtown,but it is much better than it was ten years ago and certainly more exciting than Perrysburg or Maumee.

posted by buckeye278 on Mar 21, 2010 at 05:58:39 pm     #  

I guess our convention center is fine for now - even if it cuts off St. Clair street lol. A real catalyst would be persuading a corporation to take a chance on our city and put its new headquarters downtown. I suppose local government is already taking some positive steps in trying to brand the region, but what else is happening?

Everybody would like to see more retail downtown, but how do we create that demand without more people living there first? And vice versa. I think it all starts with friendly policies toward businesses. If Toledo grants a 15 year tax abatement on new housing, why not do the same for new businesses? Some growth is better than no growth, and the workers would be spending money in the area and maybe even want to live nearby.

posted by housebeats on Mar 21, 2010 at 06:46:51 pm     #  

I spent a whole day downtown with my kids last week. (They didn't have school, and I took the day off work.)

We went to Imagination Station, took a walk along the river, ate lunch, etc. Was a good time! Thought about dropping into the art museum as well, but I decided to save that for a separate trip to make sure we had enough time to look around.

posted by mom2 on Mar 21, 2010 at 07:01:28 pm     #  

  1. "... how does Perrysburg top downtown [Toledo] in attractions?"
  2. "Toledo is far from perfect,but there is much more to offer than Perrysburg or Maumee."
  3. "I have not said that it is perfect Downtown,but it is much better than it was ten years ago and certainly more exciting than Perrysburg or Maumee."

Saying downtown Toledo has more to offer than Perrysburg or Maumee seems to be stating the obvious. It shouldn't need to be said, but doing so may indicate an insecurity problem you're having with downtown Toledo along with an odd resentment of people who live in other communities.

I would hope downtown Toledo had more happening than Perrysburg and Maumee based upon the amount of tax dollars that have been poured into downtown Toledo over the years. Don't forget that other communities in Lucas County, such as Maumee, are paying taxes that support entities in downtown Toledo.

2000 population numbers:

  • Toledo : 313,000
  • Maumee : 15,237
  • Perrysburg : around 16,000

Doesn't it make sense that based upon those population numbers that downtown Toledo should have more things happening than downtown Perrysburg and Maumee?

posted by jr on Mar 21, 2010 at 09:39:13 pm     #  

jr,tell that to the people that keep saying that there is nothing to do in the Downtown area.These are the same people that haven't been there in years,but seem to be experts on what it is like Downtown.I have no resentment to other communities around Toledo.I do my share of patronizing businesses in the burbs.I just get tired of the naysayers that want to find fault in everything Toledo does.I just don't understand the mindset of the people that have nothing positive to say about the Downtown area.Like I said,it is not perfect,but it doesn't do anybody any good to keep tearing down what we do have in our fine city.I like to look at the positives and not the negatives.

posted by buckeye278 on Mar 22, 2010 at 09:38:02 am     #  

Regarding parking downtown, the vast majority of parking is FREE downtown after 5:00pm, save for special event parking where they charge around $5/car. Really, all the complaints about parking are inflated by people who have no concept of parking in an urban area with limited space. Toledo has some of the LOWEST rates among Ohio cities and, as I said, it's generally FREE after 5:00pm.

I work downtown every day. I stay late into the evening sometimes. I come back for dinner or entertainment downtown. I have NEVER been the victim of a crime here. Furthermore, the Clean & Safe people do an excellent job of keeping the area looking clean and free of littering. They are also nice guys who will walk you to your car when it's dark or get the door for you when your hands are full. Just ask them, they're very gentlemanly.

All the talk about downtown being choked by the criminal element or dirty/trashy is, well, garbage. Take a visit to any Midwestern city and you'll find that Toledo's downtown is one of the nicer ones out there. It's not perfect, but no earthly place is.

posted by Mesmerix on Mar 22, 2010 at 09:59:01 am     #  

Several posters on here like to bring up grocery stores not being in the Downtown area.I do not live in Downtown Toledo,but I have to travel several miles to get to a grocery store from where I live.I don't know what the big deal is about these stores.If you look hard enough you could find one of these stores within a few miles of Downtown.People that live in the outskirts travel many more miles to get their groceries than what we do.I don't hear them complaining about the distance they have to travel to get their groceries.

posted by buckeye278 on Mar 22, 2010 at 10:32:55 am     #  

Isn't one of the bid deals about living in an urban environment is that you can engage in all the things you need to live there within distance of walking or urban transportation?

posted by oldsendbrdy on Mar 22, 2010 at 12:01:04 pm     #  

"... have to travel several miles to get to a grocery store from where I live. I don't know what the big deal is about these stores."

Well, it's nice to have food.

If I lived and worked downtown, I would probably be walking to work and not driving. I would also want to walk to the produce stand, the bakery, the deli, the barber shop, the newsstand, the book store, the hardware store, a clothing store, etc. Walk, walk, walk. Walkable neighborhoods need more than bars and sports stadiums, especially for those who don't care about bars and sports. A reason for living in the downtown of an urban center is not having to drive. Walk or take the bus to get around.

Sometimes I walk from home to the little Everfresh Market produce stand, located on Sylvania Ave near Elmhurst Rd and to Zavotski's Deli, located in the DeVeaux shopping center. Both stores are roughly the same distance from home. It's a over a 1.5 mile round trip walk, so it's reasonable.

Food is probably one of the most common purchases. When only a few items are needed, it just seems stupid to have to drive all the time. But that's the landscape today. People like shopping at big chain stores and buying a truck load of groceries in one trip. And big chain stores need more room, than what's available in neighborhoods. The days of small, neighborhood shops satisfying most of our needs are probably gone, or they're dwindling. We're a driving society not a walking one.

If I lived downtown and walked to work, but I had to drive for just about everything else, then why not live somewhere else with a home on a nice plot of land?

When you're comparing living in downtown Perrysburg versus downtown Toledo, downtown Perrysburg wins because it's more walkable. Downtown Perrysburg has bars, restaurants, diners, the coffee shop, some retail stores, the river, the library, a nice grocery store, my barber shop, the hardware store, the farmers market from May into October, First Friday's in the summer, walleye fishing right now, 577 Foundation, etc.

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.

posted by jr on Mar 22, 2010 at 12:01:08 pm     #  

bid=big

posted by oldsendbrdy on Mar 22, 2010 at 12:01:28 pm     #  

I agree with the eastside for a walkable area.Maybe that can still happen if the marina district takes off.
When you talk about walkable areas ,I think of where I grew up in South Toledo.We could walk out the back gate of our yard and find a barber,dentist,doctor,hardware store,restaurants,shoe store,small clothing store,grocery store,bowling alley,cleaners,appliance store,bakery,gas station,drug store,carry out and two bars.Also,our schools were within walking distance.Same goes for our church.Unfortunately those days are gone forever.When the shopping centers opened back in the 60's all of that slowly disappeared.

posted by buckeye278 on Mar 22, 2010 at 02:12:21 pm     #  

People were comparing Downtown versus Perrysburg for entertainment options because oldhometown said "Nothing to do in downtown without driving through a zone of poverty in any direction to get to the suburbs where shopping and entertainment are."

Regarding the smaller, niche businesses that complete a neighborhood, I'd stay optimistic that downtown could eventually refill these. There are lots of storefronts and buildings available. I'm pretty sure there are at least a couple places you can get a haircut currently, and the Erie Street Market has a deli, doesn't it?

As for other stores like clothing, grocery, and hardware, that kind of relies on more people living nearby. I think what downtown really needs is more housing options. What if the Fiberglas Tower finally got redeveloped as condos? That's right in the middle of everything.

posted by housebeats on Mar 22, 2010 at 02:57:15 pm     #  

I live and work downtown. My reply whenever anyone asks me where I go to do my grocery shopping is, "I get in my car and drive to the grocery store just like you do."

I would love to have a "walkable city" downtown. The Erie Street Market is great in the summer, but I would love to see something more robust year-round. We have Ahava to get a haircut, Downtown latte for some coffee and SanMarcos grocery for basic foodstuffs. The only thing really missing is a pharmacy nearby.

posted by Newbie on Mar 22, 2010 at 06:44:14 pm     #  

Feb 18, 2007 - Toledo Talk - Insights Into A Lively Downtown - (16 Comments) - Ann Arbor studied

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.

posted by jr on Mar 22, 2010 at 07:27:57 pm     #  

I lived downtown for 6 years and never had any issues obtaining groceries.

posted by upso on Mar 22, 2010 at 08:04:15 pm     #  

Buckeye278, there are all the businesses you mention within walking distance of the Westgate neighborhood (except bowling alley, carryout and doctor). There's also a great library, 2 department stores, and a clean thrift shop.

Whenever I go to Bowling Green, I spend about an hour in the Ben Franklin variety store on the main street downtown. I wish we had one here. It's a blast from the past!

posted by viola on Mar 22, 2010 at 08:58:17 pm     #  

Somebody's got to come right out and say it, so I will:

In order to make downtown Toledo an appealing district for consumers, you have to get rid of the mentally-ill Black people who infest it.

I had to deal with one of those just the other day. The little fuck had to walk around a car that had stopped for the light across the pedestrian walk. So, angered, after he walked around the car, he went up and pressed himself against the car opposite the driver. The driver within became alarmed, and I noted she was on her phone. After the little fuck relented and stalked off, he then turned around and made a "bang" motion at her car with his cane.

So he and I ended up having words on the matter. And you know what? He was unrepentant. All he ended up doing was telling me "you can't talk that way to me" over and over, as if he was invulnerable even to criticism, as our media likes to tell minorities.

THAT is an excellent reason why you won't see a rejuvenation of downtown Toledo. Some dangerous nuts stalk those streets. We kicked them out of the mental hospitals in the 1980s, when that dipshit Reagan worked his big plan to save the rich from taxation and the costs of running a sane civilization. They've been ruining our streets for decades.

I dare anyone to tell me any different.

posted by GuestZero on Mar 22, 2010 at 10:49:15 pm     #  

The stigma associated with East Toledo will prevent the Main Street area from ever being a revitalized urban area. Too bad, because as described above in another post, it has the buildings and feel for such a thing.

Downtown toledo is relatively safe at night. I have more problems with panhandlers and homeless during the day. Went to the library downtown, parked for free between 11A-2P, and was approached numerous times in my half block walk.

posted by Hoops on Mar 23, 2010 at 08:49:59 am     #  

Crazies, panhandlers, homeless, etc. are an issue downtown, just like any other urban environment. It's true. I get panhandled on a regular basis. So, I tell them no and I move on. Never had any problems. The cops and the Clean & Safe people do try to move the beggers along.

Most of the crazies are pretty harmless, they just shuffle down the street and talk to themselves. And keep in mind this is very mild. We're talking about a handful of people as opposed to the hordes that flock to the streets of places like NYC.

I'd say the worst experience I've had has been from young men who have no idea how to talk to a lady. They get to whooping and I'm sure they think it's funny while I think it's scary. I started carrying pepper spray because of them. Though, I hardly think that's a downtown thing so much as a men-without-class thing.

posted by Mesmerix on Mar 23, 2010 at 09:08:56 am     #  

The stigma associated with East Toledo will prevent the Main Street area from ever being a revitalized urban area.

Its not a stigma, its reality. I grew up there, lived there most of my life up until about 8 months ago. There is a VERY REAL gang issue. Much of the East side are rental properties and about 80% of them are dumps. Many landlords dont maintain the property, nor does many of the renters.

posted by tm2 on Mar 23, 2010 at 10:40:58 am     #