Toledo Sprawl (Columbus, Perrysburg, Waterville: appointed, crime, how much)
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Has anyone ever noticed that Toledo's skyline is symbolic of what is wrong with the city? The buildings are sprawled out in an unplanned manner and they are colorless and unattractive. Toledo has so much potential, so many assets, but it is just organized so poorly (there are smokestacks in front of the skyline?!). This article made some good points about how we could learn a little bit from Grand Rapids, MI: The Grand Rapids experience | Toledo Newspaper
I agree with what youre saying. The tall buildings arent even relatively clustered together. You have One Seagate/Fifth Third Bank/old Owens Illinois bldg way off to the one end by Cherry St randomly. Is downtown a real downtown or a suburban office park?
I think the problem is that not enough people are really clued into what a good city even looks like or functions like. Theyve been to other cities, and thought that they were better than Toledo, but can they specifically pick apart whats wrong with Toledo and could be changed? Furthermore, are they willing to do what it takes to change it.
There needs to be more emphasis on smart growth and urban design/planning priniciples. And we have to take it seriously. The Plan Commission cant exist to simply suggest ideas to the city council and mayor, but not have action taken. I feel like we come up with some decent ideas, but nothing really takes off. It sucks. I feel like were stuck in the 50s to 70s. The period where we started abandoning the inner city and embracing our cars. Not that theres anything wrong with cars and all.....but when I hear other citizens complaining about things, the only things theyre usually complaining about it is the crime in their neighborhood, or the potholes in their road.....and that those need to be priorities. Understandable, but if people cant envision what a different Toledo looks and functions like in the future, and only want simple patches to current problems, Toledo has no real future. It sucks. I also feel like so many people around here arent able to see past their own problems. They basically feel like "TOLEDO is bad because MY street is bad or TOLEDO is bad because MY block is dangerous". I can sympathize with people, but you have to be able to see the bigger picture. To see the ideas, concepts, and policies that will make Toledo better for everyone.
Well... this seems like a bit of a disconnected conversation. It's easy to make these comments when looking at downtown in a vacuum, but this isn't Sim City. Downtown is random and unplanned, because it evolved over time. The smoke stacks are in front, because that's where they had to be. It was a steam plant that provided heat for downtown. It had to be on the water. The only way to fix that is to tear it down, and I'd rather not do that. A real downtown is like our downtown: random, built over time.
There's plenty we can do to fine tune things, what with bike lanes, green spaces, converting parking lots, etc. But as far as where corporations base their operations, that's entirely up to them.
I don't have a problem with the steam plant actually. If the smoke stacks on the building are thought of as unsightly, then they could always be torn down and the building still be renovated.
I know that cities kind of have to evolve organically to some degree, especially each particular neighborhood and such....cities wouldn't have their own unique charm or soul otherwise. Corporations can move into whatever existing building they want, thats fine with me. What I have a problem with is them outgrowing their more practical skyscraper in the heart of downtown, and building a goliath sprawling building on their own entire peninsula downtown. Sorry but I think that's stupid and shortsighted. I'm sure what it boils down to is hoping the company won't leave the City of Toledo for the suburbs or another city completely. So in the case of companies such as Owens Corning and Owens Illinois, the city probably felt the pressure to give them what they want. Understandable in the moment, but at what point as a city do you decide YOU'RE in charge of land usage planning, not some company. If were scared of chasing away any potential or existing companies from downtown because of aggressive planning policies, one can sympathize to some degree, but it doesn't necessarily have to be like that. Perhaps if we kept the companies who are thoughtless in their development of property, within our set of strict boundaries, policies, and codes....those companies who are more concerned about being a good neighbor would be attracted to our city.
Honestly, I hope no one takes offense to this, but to me the main problem with Toledo are the citizens that live there. I am a Toledo native, my family still lives there so I come back from time to time. I think a lot of the people there are actually content with the "sprawl" and the lack of amenities offered by Toledo, maybe because they don't know any better?
Example, while going out with my friends for a dinner, they suggested going to outback steakhouse. That's fine and dandy but the city I currently live in, chains are really not considered a treat, most people PREFER to support local businesses. Matter of fact, I do not think there are many chains in my current location at all. Instead I suggested we try a new place I found on my yelp app, i think it was called Bar 145 or something, i forgot lol, but anyways, my friends were shocked that a restaurant like this even existed in Toledo. If people in Toledo aren't willing to open their eyes and see what's being offered to them how can they expect businesses like this to stay open?! There's also a really cute coffee shop that opened in south toledo, i can't remember the name but it is really something I'd expect to see here on the east coast. I went there to do some work on a Saturday afternoon and surprisingly it was completely EMPTY! If this place was here in DC it would be PACKED, especially on a Saturday! I was really disappointed by this because no other coffee shops in the city can compare to this one (really cool hip vibe, break walls, couches, big windows), yet people would rather go to Panera, or Starbucks instead of being open to exploring and trying something new. This is the problem! I used this example because many people aren't ready to step outside of their box and willingly try new things. To continue to grow Toledo needs the support from its citizens! Until Toledo's population changes it's mindset, Toledo will remain the same.
I went to school in Columbus and I actually didn't mind living there. I was surprised by areas like the arena district, the short north, German village that are filled with thriving small businesses. I don't think Toledo has anything similar to ANY of these areas. I can't even imagine the citizens of Toledo supporting an Arena District which saddens me. I really want to see Toledo get better because I would love to be closer to my family but I really don't see this happening anytime soon.
I think the coffee shop in South Toledo you are talking about is Plate 21? I always talk about how I think its a good example of the kind of small business our outlying neighborhoods need to make them desirable places to live in the future. And I can tell you this. I've been there many times when there's was easily 15-20 people there.
I agree with you Glamgirl and its unfortunate. In our cheesy, corporate chain world, I think it takes a degree of cultural and social awareness and appreciation, to seek out the good places in a city. At the end of the day, Toledos a blue collar, rust belt city, and its citizens tastes by and large reflect this culturally. Its getting better though. People are finally rediscovering Downtown, and while still in its infancy of its rebirth, Downtown is attracting growing numbers of people. People are starting to realize the unique things about Toledo now. It's just gonna be a slower than normal process for us here.
I can vouch for the fact that it's probably just that they don't know any better. Growing up in Toledo, Chain restaurants were the norm, and anything non-chain just seemed low class (and often times they were). I've had people say "No, we want to go to a real restaurant" if I suggest a local place. Ample parking was the norm, heck, driving from one side of Spring Meadows or Southland to the other side isn't even thought of as strange. Walking to anything besides the carry-out was virtually unheard of, and most people would even drive to the carry-out if it was more than a block or two.
When I first moved to Pittsburgh I was somewhat taken aback from the lack of familiar restaurants. For instance, for a couple of years, there was not a single Taco Bell in city limits. I don't think there are any Applebees or Outbacks for that matter, either. They exist, but outside of the city and in the suburbs. So you're kind of forced to check out the local eateries, and it turns out that many of them are awesome. It's quite a shift from Toledo. The added benefits of walkability and decent public transit aren't fully realized until you experience it for yourself. I never would have thought I'd be taking the bus/train to work, but here, I am, doing that mostly every day now. If I didn't own my car outright I'd seriously reconsider if I really need one or not.
So to sum up, yes, I think it is because they don't know better. I know that sounds condescending, and i don't mean it to come across that way, but I do think it's the reason. People think of walkable as having to cross 4 lane roads, they think of transit as TARTA and routes that only run 5 or 6 times a day, and local restaurants as low class and dirty. It's just a different frame of reference for Toledoans, I can't blame them for coming to the conclusions that they do. I probably agreed with most of them 10 years ago.
I think ferrari is onto something. My views on life and what a city can be changed pretty dramatically after I lived elsewhere for a while. Other than Waffle House after a long night at the bars, or Panera to get some work done on a weekend or something, I have absolutely no desire to go to a chain anymore. I've sort of tied it to "manufactured food" now.
Warning: The following is a rant. Disregard if you have absolutely anything better to be doing with your time.
To take this a step further, (and this is partially the foodie in me coming out), Toledo really lacks a "food culture." With few exceptions, nobody is pushing any envelopes in our city. Nobody is trying new things, thinking outside the box. And, for the most part, nobody is asking them to. I'll use my mom as a pretty stereotypical Toledo eater. We went out to Burger Bar 419 the other night (an absolute favorite of mine), and she made the 'grossed out' face when both pork belly and duck eggs were mentioned. It drives me absolutely insane when things like this happen. I eat anything, and I know that isn't the norm. I don't expect people to be open to eating a lot of the crazy things I have. But when they're completely normal things that are just slightly different than the standard food items, and you get grossed out by it, you're being a child. She eats bacon, but won't have pork belly? It's the same exact cut of meat, just treated differently! She eats chicken eggs, but won't eat duck eggs? And I think most people are this way. If it isn't something you've grown up eating and knowing as "normal food", you aren't going to eat it.
So yeah, I think a better food culture in Toledo (getting away from chains, being more open to more than just the things you'd find on a Friday's menu) would be great for our city.
I actually think Toledo has a lot to offer in terms of local restaurants and entertainment for a city its size. My problem is with the whole aesthetic of the city; that the layout is far too spread out and the buildings are unattractive. You'd be surprised how much that effects people's perception of a city. I'm saying we should try to be more like European cities in this sense to distinguish Toledo as a unique American city. For example, look at a city like Warsaw, Poland (Per capita income in Poland is roughly $20,000 a year vs $37,000 for Ohio):
Every building is like a piece of artwork and I feel like it creates a much better atmosphere. The buildings in Toledo seem cheap and ugly in comparison. So if a poorer eastern European country can design an attractive city, why can't an American city? I guess there is some more attractive development going on outside of the city in (if you can afford to live in Perrysburg or Waterville) but it is all about the individual and rather than the community. That's what I like about European cities, they are willing to invest a little bit more to make a nice community and neighborhood for everyone. Instead in Toledo we have this for the individual:
Sorry I'm having trouble with the pictures but here is Warsaw:
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