Downtown Development (Columbus, Toledo, Ada: affordable apartments, rent, loft)
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The Blade's article on the Triangle Building's development today listed a promising stat: downtown vacancies have dropped from over 10% to 3.9% year over year. It's good to see the growing demand for downtown living, as that's really the first domino that needs to fall for a prosperous downtown. More people in downtown means more dining, shopping, and entertainment options, which in turn means a more appealing downtown to visit to those living outside of it, which means more activity, which... you get the point.
With the speed that the Triangle Building is expected to be completed, and the prospect of the Berdan Building following suit whenever they figure their funding out, (not to mention a few smaller projects going on that don't garner the attention that the big buildings get) we should be seeing a pretty big spike in downtown residences within the next couple years. It'll be fun to watch how downtown responds if/when these buildings start to fill up.
It is already night and day from 5 years ago... the Berdan and Triangle buildings have been the most noticeable blight in that end of downtown... I look forward to them attracting business instead of deterring it.
Yeah, the ballpark is really the de facto edge of downtown right now, basically dropping off into nothing beyond it. Having the Berdan and Triangle buildings up and running could do wonders for expanding the active urban area. I'd love to see a downtown that stretched all the way to Swan Creek that buzzed with the activity we've begun to see around the stadium these past few years.
I think it would be cool if there was more affordable apartments downtown, that were still huge on character in some way. And when I say affordable I mean like 400 a month for a super huge space. I know the first thought would be....thats not getting enough money for that, but the thing is, you dont have to make them super immaculate. Especially for young people.
I believe there is a certain order of people that revitalize a given urban area. The first wave of people are college students and artists. These are people usually of minimal means, who care mostly about location more than anything. Theyre interested in living in a "cool or hip" building but to them, that can mean living in an abandoned warehouse. Theyre also the most fearless demographic when it comes to pioneering an urban area. They dont have children whos safety must be taken into account, and usually have few valuable possessions, so theyre usually not too worried about being near ghetto or anything. They are a good target group to cater to first, because you can cater to them affordably. When it comes to providing housing, like I said, you could literally take an abandoned warehouse, get it up to what just barely qualifies as meeting code, divide it up into units, and rent them out as apartments. This would be super cheap for any developer, so if finding tenants didnt pan out so well, you barely be at a loss. That most likely would not be the case though, and as the neighborhood flourished and people of greater means moved in, the developer could finish the building into super nice, high end, condos. Getting these kids and artistic types though helps set a foundation for cultural development in this new area as well. These people immediately require businesses of a certain cultural caliber to meet their needs. Once these businesses (be it bookstores, coffeeshops, gallery spaces, or bars) start popping up, the neighborhood starts being less associated with its rough, blighted past....and instead with being a burgeoning hip neighborhood.
This new hip area, while at first mostly just appealing to those who felt daring enough to occupy the space (the young people and artists), has now been colonized so to speak, and is now attractive to the next wave of people. The young professionals. The yuppies see how cool all these new independent businesses are and decide that this quirky new neighborhood is the trendy, cool area to be. Since they dont have kids yet most likely, safety, while being of more concern than to college kids, but not of immense concern, isnt a huge factor, and they want to move to this area where they can live an urban lifestyle meeting colleagues at the local pub, meeting a date at that independent coffeeshop, walk home drunk to their loft apartment. Thus the demand for more upscale housing comes. And the same developer, if he so chooses, can transform his same building into nicer units. Or if he wanted to be really progressive, make some units more high end while keeping some rather unrefined and edgy for the young artistic types. Once the young professionals establish themselves, businesses catering to them establish themselves. Swankier bars, fancier restaurants, new office space in old buildings, etc. By now the neighborhoods probably weeded out most criminal types.
Now the neighborhood is a lot more accessible to the general public. Now it will probably appeal to empty nesters, single middle aged adults, and even some retired folks. Once they move in, and every businesses associated with them....it becomes safe and ready for the average American family. A couple with a couple kids.
Sorry for droning on, but I think thats the order you kinda have to gear development in. I think the cities focus for downtown should be providing very affordable, yet completely desirable, space for people to dwell, as well as making the area, more bicycle friendly. Toledo has a lot of work to do towards bike-friendliness, and that is a desirable trait for many people who are willing to move to downtown areas.
You'd be surprised how much it can cost to get an old warehouse up to the most basic codes. I have a little experience in this area, and old buildings aren't cheap if you actually want to use them. Asbestos removal, gutting old plumbing and replacing with new to meet code for water and sprinkler systems, replacing electric, repairing roof damage, repairing brickwork, getting permits to change the zoning to residential, etc. So now you're a few hundred thousand into it (not to mention whatever you paid for it to begin with) and you haven't even secured a tenant yet. The problem is that Toledo sort of had a dark age in downtown for a while, where a lot of buildings fell behind pretty far, and will take a good bit of $ to bring them back. Sort of like the difference between finding an old car in gently used condition and finding an old car with the engine blown out... one of those is a steal, one of those is a potential money pit.
But, reality check aside, I completely agree with you. The college age artsy population is the driving force behind a thriving urban area. Anything the city can do to tie the University of Toledo into the downtown area would be a positive thing, as far as I'm concerned. I was really excited when the Swan Creek riverwalk project was still on the table, because there was a plan in it to have a bike path stretch all the way to the Scott Park Campus from downtown. A link like that could do the city a world of good.
Really, Toledo could be on the cusp of breaking out if just a few factors could be properly aligned: public opinion and funds.
First, the average Toledoan seems to have a very negative opinion of the city. And actually, negativity isn't even the right word... it's more about pessimism. People seem to be glass-half-empty thinkers most of the time when it comes to Toledo's development. The usual "oh great, wasting money on another building that'll just end up empty again" kind of comments that you always here. Just gotta keep the ball rolling, and keep converting the nonbelievers who don't think there's a reason to try and build up Toledo again.
Second are the funds. There are a number of projects that haven't been able to progress due to the lack of funding (some for good reasons, like the economic downturn in '08, and others just because they weren't realistic or weren't prepared.) But if you really take a look at all the projects that are going on, are being planned, or have been proposed in the last few years, Toledo could really have something going. In the last decade, we've had the baseball stadium, the hockey arena, and now the casino being built. Add to that the work going on in the Triangle building, the plans for the Berdan building and the Fiberglas tower. Then throw in the "what ifs" of the Swan Creek Riverwalk, the renovated Steam Plant, and the Marina District, and Toledo could be light years ahead of where it was even just in the 1990's. And these are just the big-ticket projects, not even including the many other developments that have occurred or are occurring on a more moderate scale.
By virtue of how expensive it is to convert a big dumpy old warehouse into apartments means that there wont be any 400/month apartments...
I love the gritty bohemian scene and, as far as the warehouse district is concerned, that phase may be over before it started...it is already largely lawyer/ professional occupied. Sure there are some awesome galleries there, but I don't know that a lot of lower budget artists live there. The question is, where is the bohemian scene going to take root now? I know the Old West End has been attractive with the arts scene there and the low rents, but how long is that going to last?
And I don't mean to say that you can't have big open warehouse type spaces on the cheap, I'm just saying that for Toledo's warehouse district anyway, they'll be a little hard to come by. And I think it's still early enough in the refurbishment of downtown to have the bohemian areas like we're talking about. There are plenty of sections around downtown that have little or no development whatsoever going on. And even across the river could be a great candidate for a burgeoning arts community.
There are plenty of sections around downtown that have little or no development whatsoever going on. And even across the river could be a great candidate for a burgeoning arts community.
Right. Well honestly they dont even have to be big, architecturally significant buildings for those who want that gritty, bohemian feel.
We already know what the Warehouse District is becoming. Im curious to see what all of the Uptown area, becomes. I think it would be cool to see different little cultural districts. Like maybe a tiny China/Asia Town or even a LGBT oriented neighborhood. The Adams Street Arts District, is a good start in my opinion. Since Toledos not that big, they could just be a little stretch, not even a block long or whatever. I really just want to see places with identities more than anything. Identity is crucial to pride and pride is crucial to giving a crap about the progress and success of your neighborhood.
I love the little neighborhood names on the top of the street signs that you see at any corner thats an entrance to the neighborhood.
Like maybe a tiny China/Asia Town or even a LGBT oriented neighborhood.
Regardless of anyone's views on the matter, there is very often strong correlation between a gay community and the trendiest district in a city. Look at High Street in Columbus.
I'm glad to hear about more events going on in and around downtown. Artomatic419, the Silver Screen Classics series they're running at the Valentine, etc, all fun things going on that aren't sporting events. (Variety is the spice of life!) I know some people have been weighing the possibility of starting up a pub crawl series, which I think would be a fantastic idea to get people into downtown. The more exposure people have to what's going on in downtown, the easier it will be to convince them that it's worth building up.
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