July

29

Open Letter to the Community

Posted Jul 29th, 2008 by Beth Frisinger  Category: Community Interest, Toledo.com

 

OP-ED PIECE SUBMITTED TO THE WEEKLY PRINT MEDIA
By Tom Crothers, Executive Director of DTID
and President of GDBP * (419) 249-5494

July 29, 2008

The members of our boards and I read with great interest the recent series in The Blade which identified a number of issues relating to the decline of the central business districts in several Ohio cities. When one analyzes these articles, it becomes clear that this situation can be likened to a “bad news, good news story.”

The bad news is that it is true Toledo has experienced a significant reduction in the number of Fortune 500 firms, businesses in general and their employees who call downtown “home.” This has lead to a relatively high commercial and office vacancy rate in our city center with the result that the “critical mass” which makes any downtown vibrant and appealing to visitors, customers, business owners and prospective investors is adversely affected.

Nevertheless, while it is true that downtown Toledo lost 11% of its workforce during the last five years, an analysis of the data provided in these articles shows that this is exactly the same average percentage which vacated the other six downtowns cited in these stories.

If there is good news, it is that we are not alone in dealing with this problem. To a greater or lesser extent, each of the cities identified is faced with most of the same challenges. Further, these problems are not caused solely by recent events. This situation has been occurring since the 1970’s.

The “move to the suburbs” by downtown businesses has been aided by polices put in place by suburban communities to create just this result and one can’t fault them for doing so. With historically cheap gasoline, excellent roadways and the spurious offer of ”free parking,” business parks, shopping malls and other commercial developments have been built in suburbia and prospered for many years.

While this has created a significant reduction in the number of businesses located in downtown Toledo, fortunately many of these workers are still employed by firms located throughout our region.

The facts surrounding these issues are irrefutable. The real question is, “What are we going to do about it?” Uttering the phase, “I remember downtown Toledo when . . .” and throwing up our hands in abject surrender should no longer be an option.

The Greater Downtown Business Partnership (GDBP) and its member organizations: Downtown Toledo Improvement District (DTID), Downtown Toledo Parking Authority (DTPA) and the Toledo Design Center (TDC) are committed to working closely with other economic and community development organizations to undertake the challenge of revitalizing greater downtown Toledo.

This decision is a natural outgrowth of GDBP’s mission “to promote good communication among, coordinate the common interests of, and serve as a unified voice for the private business community in matters which affect greater downtown.” While achieving this goal over time will be difficult, it is essential to pursue it now if downtown Toledo is again to become a center for commerce, entertainment and cultural activities.

This transformation must be accomplished on two levels. GDBP will attempt to energize the downtown business community to create, adopt and implement a “grand vision” for the future of our downtown. At the same time, GDBP’s member organizations will endeavor to ensure that downtown is perceived as being accessible, clean, safe and welcoming.

For example, DTID will continue to help secure, clean up and market its 38-block central business district by picking up litter and debris, removing displays of graffiti, further reducing panhandling and marketing downtown as a more wholesome and secure neighborhood.

DTPA working closely with our private parking operators will continue to offer convenient, affordable short-term and long-term parking opportunities so that businesses, government offices and public attractions are accessible to all.

TDC will continue to work effectively with local architectural firms to update the Downtown Toledo Master Plan, lobby for the even-handed enforcement of design standards and, perhaps most importantly, take the point for GDBP in creating the “grand vision.”

The timing for our undertaking this redevelopment effort couldn’t be better. We now have a wonderful opportunity presented to us with the construction of the new Lucas County Multi-Purpose Arena. It is our belief that the “urban trifecta” created by the confluence of the new arena, Fifth Third Field and SeaGate Convention Centre will allow us to begin to create a year ‘round destination for entertainment, cultural and leisure activities in downtown Toledo. Unlike in Columbus, our entertainment district will be located directly in our city center rather than one mile away.

In close collaboration with the Lucas County Commissioners and other stakeholders, GDBP will soon announce a formal process to initiate this civic endeavor. You may rest assured that you, the stakeholders who will ultimately cause this revitalization to occur, will be informed of our progress through the media. After all, it is the residents and resident businesses in Northwest Ohio who will truly revitalize downtown Toledo.

It is commonly accepted that “you get what you expect.” For far too long we in Northwest Ohio have been satisfied to accept “second-class status.” It is time for us all to unite behind a common vision which promotes our greatest local asset.

We all know and accept the fact that “Northwest Ohio is a great place to live, work and raise a family.” Let’s seize this moment in time to unite so that together we can begin to reenergize our entire community.

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Beth Frisinger - Downtown Toledo Improvement District, Inc. | 300 Madison Ave., Ste. 1510 | Toledo, OH 43604

bethfrisinger@dttid.com | www.downtowntoledoimprovementdistrict.com | 419-249-5494 No Comments »

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