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The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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East Toledo residents have heard it all before — a new plan to develop the Marina District is in the works and its’ going to attract new money from hundreds of miles.

For decades, requests for proposals have been issued and developers have come and gone.

However, those same residents are saying this time it may be for real. Why? Because, residents say, the Metroparks of the Toledo Area are the ones laying the groundwork and the ProMedica health care system is a major player.

For once, two local players are involved, and at a public meeting Wednesday, East Toledo residents overwhelmingly approved of moving ahead with the plan, but added a few suggestions of their own.

Wednesday night, over 75 guests attended a second open house at the East Toledo Family Center, and what they got was a “Framework Plan” which gives insight into how the Metroparks and other developers will take on the task of turning the entire 127-acre Marina District into a quality piece.

MKSK consultant Chris Hermann says the newly developed Framework Plan calls for 70 percent parkland, 20 percent mixed use, and 10 percent cultural use, but adds those figures are not firm. MKSK is a Columbus-based planning firm hired by ProMedica to help develop the city’s downtown master plan.

Hermann says one of the highlights of the property is the downtown skyline view available to mixed-use, residential and office development and he says that view should be incorporated into the development of the property.

“We are very aware that this represents something that actually must get done. There’s been a lot of discussion about what the future of this is going to be. We’ve heard it loud and clear,” Hermann said.

“Whatever happens, it has to be something that reflects East Toledo. This is actually a real plan. The Metroparks is excited about doing this. This is an area they want to put a lot of investment in because this is a great opportunity for their program, and we think that development could actually happen on Main Street.”

The first step was to get 70 acres of land back into local control, said Hermann. That sale is now complete.

ProMedica has purchased the 70 acres from Chinese firm Dashing Pacific Ltd., and next step is to sell much of that land, which is adjacent to the Maumee River, to the Metroparks of the Toledo Area for development of a park.

The plan not only calls for a Metropark along the riverfront, with Riverside Drive as it’s “spine,” it calls for small retail development and restaurants along Main Street, near where the old Sports Arena used to sit, and room for expansion of the Great Lakes Maritime Museum, or possibly other museums or cultural attractions.

Consultants are hoping that cultural aspects will highlight and educate on Toledo’s rich history of innovation and history. That includes preserving and incorporating the historic gatehouse, a one-story brick building that was once part of the Toledo Edison plant that stood on the property.

The Framework Plan also proposes expanding East Broadway to provide an entrance into the Marina District. In the park, the Framework Plan calls for bicycle paths and pedestrian walkways within the site and bike connections to the surrounding neighborhood plus enhanced fishing, boating and river access.


Creating an ‘eco-village’
Hermann said any residential development should include sustainable features that prevent overflow from draining into the river and could take advantage of renewable energies. His presentation included ideas from similar developments, called “eco-villages,” on Detroit Shoreway in Cleveland and another riverfront development in Portland, Oregon.

Hermann adds that any residential development must be “carefully done” and respect the architectural history of East Toledo but it must be modern at the same time. He said demonstration projects could showcase new ways to be energy efficient, new architecture or other amenities. It could take advantage of urban gardens, and he said the Metropark could play a role in that.

He said such a residential project has to be so “benchmark” that any potential residents would be willing “to take a chance”, but he warns, “It’s not going to happen overnight. It has to be something you can build on.”

District 3 councilman Peter J. Ujvagi noted that residential housing growth in downtown Toledo is continuing, and he sees that growth potentially coming across the river. He mentioned some successful mixed use developments in Europe, which he believes could be a model.

“We’re not there yet, but I really do believe we’re beginning to get very close to property values in downtown rising in terms of residential, so there’s going to be some opportunities here,” Ujvagi said. “You guys have heard me — I believe the river should be a ‘uniter,’ not a divider, and this is a unique opportunity for that.

“I will share, I had an opportunity to spend a little time in Central Europe — Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, and man, do they like mixed use, which people break out in hives at the planning commission (in Toledo) when you talk about mixed use.

“But, there’s really some phenomenal examples of exactly what (Hermann) was talking about—commercial, retail, restaurants, housing on top, they are neighbor-friendly, very children-friendly, closely knit with low impact playgrounds, and places for people to gather and play chess. There are a lot of different ways to draw people in and if we can take advantage of that, I think we could be in good shape.”

Hermann says the next steps are to send RFPs seeking developers for the residential, office, and retail side of the project and to forward the sale of the property to the Metroparks, which also promises to get the public involved on how to develop its park space along the river.

Ujvagi added, “Those of you who know me, I’m pretty stiff-necked and hard-headed about things, and usually I’m very critical about plans when they start off because it’s imposed on us instead of us having the opportunity to be part of it.”

“It’s not often that I can say this — I really am impressed with this, and I’ll tell you why. It’s because it’s not a plan — it’s a direction we can go and all of us can be part of making those decisions. This isn’t, ‘This is going to go here, this is going there,’ and all of those kinds of things. We’re going to be part of this plan, and I’ll have to tell you, it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen. A couple of us here have been through these things and we have gray hair and been through this so many times, it isn’t funny. And, most things were like a plan that wasn’t even finished, and that was it.”

Ujvagi suggested continuing similar ideas into International Park and toward the Hollywood Casino Toledo.

“It ought to be bridge-to-bridge. Ultimately, we have to be looking at the riverfront basically from the grain elevators out to The Docks, and that’s what we need to focus on. This is a great addition. International Park was a great addition, and it can be again,” Ujvagi said.

 

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