The Rust Belt is replete with the remnants of the once-booming American automotive industry. Gutted plants dapple the landscape and sales of locally made cars are the lowest they have been in anyone’s memory.
But take a drive down the Central Avenue Strip, and it looks as if the industry’s booming — and at its newest addition, Taylor Kia, it is. So much, in fact, that it required an upgrade in space.
Taylor Kia is operated by the 28-year-old Stephen Taylor, son of Steve Taylor, who owns the Taylor Automotive Family, which includes Taylor Cadillac. In the family’s efforts to absorb its section of the strip, it opened the Kia dealership out of the former Hing Me Chop Suey House in 1999. The franchise performed quite well, better than its Chinese-restaurant roots could support.
So the senior Taylor bought up the eight-acre portion of the highway that runs up to U.S. 23 with the help of Kia sales and performance incentives, put down the $5.5 million necessary to create a facility that could support Kia’s growth and allow the Taylors to consolidate their business, adding a service garage to the building. The garage was previously located Downtown, eight miles away from the dealership.
“Kia will contribute to the building of the dealership,” Steve Taylor said. “They give three to five hundred dollars for every car you sell toward your new facility. So they
will end up contributing somewhere
over a million dollars to building
Kia requires all its dealerships to have a uniform look on the outside, hence the building’s rather non-descript, gray edifice. But the car maker provides far fewer stipulations for its interior, allowing the father and son to create whatever sort of atmosphere they pleased.
Last Wednesday, M.C. Hammer’s hit single “U Can’t Touch This” was piped through the speakers as customers milled about.
“We wanted it to be classic contemporary,” Stephen Taylor said of Kia’s décor. “The dome in the center of the store is from France. Our customer base is changing from younger to a bit older, so we want the interior to appeal to both groups.”
The process of clearing out such an expansive amount of space in an already congested area had already begun when Steve Taylor purchased the property. The previous owner had cleared out a few houses and other structures that populated the land. They did, however, have to turn Moffat, a small cut-through street, into a cul- de-sac, which Steve Taylor maintains pleased the residents, who now have nothing separating their side yards from the dealership’s parking lot.
“We’re planning on putting bushes and shrubs and a fence over there,” Stephen Taylor said. “We’re putting in trees, grass and a sprinkler system.”
One reason the Taylors jumped on the particular property was because of the fact that it abuts the highway.
“My son wanted to get that property on the expressway because at that point — you know, there’s no other dealer in Toledo that’s on an expressway,” Steve Taylor said.
He cites a statistic that more than 120,000 cars would pass through that stretch of highway each day. He said he believes exposure like that is tough to beat.
Steve Taylor said he eventually would like to create one giant campus that holds the Kia dealership and his Cadillac dealership.
Archive for July, 2005
The Rust Belt is replete with the remnants of the once-booming American automotive industry. Gutted plants dapple the landscape and sales of locally made cars are the lowest they have been in anyone’s memory.
“We’re 10 years behind Columbus, 10 years behind Cleveland, probably about five to six years behind Akron … the mindset of Toledo has to change.”
NBA star and prominent local businessman Jim Jackson said Friday that Toledo is a “Class C” city that needs to adjust its attitude toward development projects.
“We’re 10 years behind Columbus, 10 years behind Cleveland, probably about five to six years behind Akron,” Jackson said. “Here in Toledo … whenever something is proposed or whenever somebody wants to do something that could be positive for the city, you always have people that the first thing they say is ‘Well, you can’t do it’ … The mindset of Toledo has to change.”
Though he would not name any specific deals, Jackson said some of his developer friends have shied away from starting projects in Toledo because of the negative attitudes of city politicians.
“I know a few developers from out of town who’ve tried to do some deals here, and they say it’s extremely difficult because of the cynicism and the negativity that surrounds trying to do projects here,” he said. “You have people who vote on these projects who don’t understand development. They understand politics, but development is totally different.”
Jackson, a Toledo native, has spent a significant amount of money on development projects in his hometown. Jackson owns the Car Spa, 1841 Dorr St., Jackson’s Lounge and Grill, 233 N. Huron St., and he is a partner on the $19 million Downtown steam plant renovation project.
For Jackson, Toledo’s economic climate makes it appealing for development projects.
“A lot of my friends who are in the business ask me, ‘Why Toledo? There’s nothing there. The population is declining,’ ” Jackson said. “But I say it’s a Catch-22. Because there is nothing here, you have an opportunity to introduce some great things because there is a void in the market on certain things.”
Jackson said he wants to fill these voids, not only for personal benefit, but for the benefit of his hometown.
Jackson developed the Car Spa in his old neighborhood near Dorr Street and Upton Avenue so residents would not have to take their cars to the suburbs for maintenance work and detailing.
“That was done because it was in my neighborhood where I grew up; I thought it was a need,” Jackson said. “People inside the neighborhood would always go out to get their car serviced, to buy a car, to rent a car.”
The restaurant had similar, personal motives: Jackson developed that facility based on the advice of his father.
“(My father) always loved the restaurant-bar atmosphere with music, so I thought it would be neat to bring something to the city that served a great meal but also had a great atmosphere and had live music,” Jackson said.
Twenty Jim Jacksons
No matter what the project, city developers and politicians said Jackson is a positive force in Toledo.
“I wish I had 20 Jim Jacksons investing in Downtown Toledo and our neighborhoods,” Toledo Mayor Jack Ford said. “With his income and stature, he could’ve lived anywhere in the country, but he chose to come home … I think he’s demonstrated a strong commitment to his hometown, not just through his investments, which he could’ve done anywhere, but through his volunteer work with the kids.”
Ford even partially agreed with Jackson’s assessment of Toledo’s business climate. Ford said Jackson convinced him businessmen — not politicians — need to be in charge of making the decisions on development projects, and this was the catalyst for Ford’s attempt to merge the county and city economic development departments.
Pete Gozza, founder of Downtown Toledo, Inc., said Jackson and a couple other developers helped start development Downtown by making purchases when nobody else was developing the area.
“They were the ones that came in and bought things when no one was investing,” Gozza said.
But Jackson is not without his critics, especially on the most recent steam plant renovation project.
When Jackson’s proposal for the steam plant was accepted in August 2004, many argued a different plan proposed by Rod Kagy of KG&R Development was superior. Kagy said at the time that he did not need the $300,000 the city was offering to developers willing to start the project. Jackson’s group, Water Street Development Co., LLC, a partnership between Jackson and developer David Ball, accepted that money.
Jackson said his proposal — which includes plans to build 111 apartment and condominium units at the Maumee River steam plan site Downtown — was not only the best one, but it was the only one turned in by the Aug. 16 deadline.
“At the end of it, when our timetable was up, our deadline was due, our proposal was in,” Jackson said. “Kagy and his group came in after the deadline.”
Mayor Ford agreed that Jackson’s proposal was the best one turned in by deadline and dismissed the idea that he accepted Jackson’s proposal because Jackson is his friend. Ford said he talks to Jackson about three times a year concerning business developments in other cities. He has been to Jackson’s home once and he went to Jackson’s wedding. But he does not regularly socialize with the NBA star.
“I actually wish I did get preferential treatment from Jim because maybe I’d get tickets to basketball games … and things like that,” Ford said.
Jackson said he does not receive preferential treatment from Ford.
“People say that he’s giving me favors,” Jackson said. “I don’t see it, if that’s the case. What I’ve done is pretty much follow the rules and guidelines like everybody else. I don’t want anything given. I think what I’m bringing to the table is the best product. If it don’t stand on that, then I don’t want to do it.”
Kagy did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment.
SUBHEAD: Distant relationship
Though Jackson travels frequently as an NBA player with the Phoenix Suns, he said he stays updated on his Toledo businesses and his five restaurants in Dallas “day-to-day.”
“I have weekly conference calls and staff meetings on all our projects,” Jackson said. “I’m probably on the phone every day in regards to especially development that’s just starting. Constantly through e-mails or over the phone, I may not be able to reach out and touch it, but I have a pulse and I know what’s going on.”
Jackson’s operations manager, Willie Williams, serves as Jackson’s eyes and ears in Toledo when Jackson is away with the Suns. Jackson met Williams when they competed against each other in basketball at rival elementary schools, and Jackson promised Williams that he would be his business manager some day.
“He told me when we were back in college, ‘Once I get everything together, I’m going to come and get you to help me run some of my companies,’ and he kept true to his word,” Williams said. “At that time, I thought it was just talk.”
Williams helps Jackson review sites for development and serves as the day-to-day operations manger of Jackson’s restaurant. On the steam plant development, Williams makes sure Jackson’s ideas are carried out when Jackson cannot physically be in Toledo.
“I’m in the back making sure that Jimmy’s input and his vision are still being implemented when he’s away playing with his other job,” Williams said.
Williams and Jackson said they have a few ideas for future developments, but they’re not ready to release the details. Right now, Williams said, the pair is concerned with getting the steam plant project completed.
“Once the steam plant is up, that’s going to show people we are serious about development, we are serious about developing Downtown, and that will give us the opportunity to develop other properties,” he said.
But for Downtown to truly blossom, Jackson said, the business climate in Toledo has to change. Jackson said to enact this change, politicians have to develop a better understanding of development.
“I don’t think a lot of people have the foresight on how to develop the core, especially Downtown, to help bring in business,” Jackson said. “The first thing people want to say is ‘Well, Downtown, we need shopping, we need retail,’ but to do that, you got to have people. Without people, retail doesn’t work. Commercial sale doesn’t work. You have to start at your basic, ground level and get market rate housing Downtown first, and then you bring in other stuff.”
For Jackson, that process begins when Toledoans become more open to change.
“People here are used to a certain thing, and they don’t like change, they’re scared of change,” Jackson said. “They want it, but they don’t know how to accept it. And if you want to grow as a city, you have to kind of let some of those things go and build from anew. And until we get that on a consistent effort, we’re still going to be a Class C city. And if you want to get to a Class B city, you have to know how to accept change and understand what change can do.”
Three weeks ago, my travel agent offered me “terrorist insurance” before I left on a flight to London. This $99 insurance would allow me to change my flight date in the event of a terrorist attack anywhere in the world. I laughed off the added expense as a brilliant scare tactic to scam impressionable travelers out of their hard-earned cash.
In an attempt to see more of the world, my wife and I decided to whirl through 10 European countries via the public transportation system. Our starting point was a corner little known to us, Russell Square in London. We expected non-stop excitement in the start of our landmark adventure, but what we did not expect is narrowly missing danger in the form of a terrorist plot.
Upon arriving in Russell Square that first week of July, I stepped off the subway to greet pleasant and welcoming Londoners. I was surprised to see the street to my hotel lined with hip urban youths, Coca-Cola machines and Pizza Huts.
Through the experience of IRA bombings as well as their close juxtaposition to other European countries who have felt the backlash of terrorism, I expected England to be on an ever-vigilant guard. Instead, I found a country like ours. I noticed no security checkpoints on the subway system. I noticed my effortless entrance onto a crowded train without even having to buy a ticket. I noticed no one checked my heavily packed luggage as we were crammed like cattle into a mass transit system.
My wife and I traversed London through the use of two subway stations: Russell Square and the near- by King’s Cross. Day in and day out, those two stations seemed to be the center of our London stay.
Amidst the subway traffic, we ran into a multitude of business commuters, the occasional persistent panhandler and countless tourists just as lost as we were. The one commonality between all of these subway commuters was the attitude of complacency. No worried expressions. No racial profiling.
Only for a second did I sit and think of how difficult it would be to exit Russell Square’s deep underground subway platform in the case of an emergency.
We eventually left London to continue our transcontinental hike. On July 7, I awoke in my bed in Rome.
I planned on continuing my day in a normal fashion until I turned on the television. My heart nearly stopped when the news anchor mentioned “Russell Square,” “King’s Cross,” “bombing, possibly terrorist,” “at least 33 now confirmed dead.”
Within minutes, not only was my mindset, but the entire European atmosphere changed into one of fear. Europeans as far south as Italy appeared affected by the London bombings. Panic seemed to spread like brushfire through the close-knit European community.
The United States, first. Spain, second. England, third. The pattern seemed apparent. The entire Western world was under attack, and no one knew who was next.
All rational thought regarding the unlikelihood of my involvement in another bombing went out the window, in place of suspicion and anxiety.
Days later, I was back in London finding the same worries among the Londoners. One man flashed a sign that read, “Today, we’re all British,” while another sign depicted a man holding a gas nozzle to his head in a gun-like suicidal manner.
Only in retrospect does it occur to me how close we were to that bombing. With two of the four bombs in Russell Square and King’s Cross, it is quite possible that I brushed shoulders with the would-be suicide bomber days earlier on the train.
It’s possible that my timely decision to leave the U.K. might also have been the only thing that saved my family from tragedy. The bottom line is that nothing but luck saved those who dodged misfortune.
Anxiety is their reward.
Today, the idea of “terrorism insurance” still seems like nothing more than a smart marketing ploy. However, the travel agencies are not to blame.
The fear of terrorism echoes as underlying motivation in everything we do.
Contact Michael Punsalan at email@example.com.
In 2002, Toledo-based American Retrospects, LLC signed an agreement with ODOT and general contractor Fru-Con to produce a television documentary that will showcase the new I-280 bridge. The plan is to distribute the program to PBS stations nationwide in an effort to draw attention to this modern technological marvel that is on Toledo’s horizon.
When we learned there were no plans for a welcome center, we took action. An advisory team was formed. We then consulted with dozens of business leaders, several state and local representatives and community groups. We have a plan and proposal to create an attraction that can have significant impact on Toledo’s image and economy.
Our vision is called SkyWay Visitor’s Center and it is not just a concrete building with restrooms and a rack of tourist pamphlets. Skyway Center is an expanded version of the $4 million Ottawa County Visitor’s Center that opened two years ago. With overnight guest and RV accommodations plus other amenities, SkyWay Center would give travelers a reason to exit our new bridge at Front Street and visit Toledo rather than just drive by.
Located near The Docks and other yet-to-be-named Marina District attractions, SkyWay Center would fit nicely with popular leisure time activities, entertainment and special events that draw visitors regionally on a year-round basis.
The next step is to secure an appropriate parcel of land consistent with the needs of the SkyWay project.
Fortunately, recent brownfield cleanup efforts have prepared several locations ideally suited for planting the seeds for future Marina District development. A visitor’s center seems like a logical addition to other existing venues, such as Fifth Third Field, SeaGate Centre, COSI, Toledo Zoo, Toledo Museum of Art and future Pizzuti Company recommendations.
With work on the new bridge nearing completion, we would like to introduce the SkyWay Center proposal to our community to get a sense of its support … or lack thereof.
New projects like SkyWay and the I-280 Bridge need individuals with passion and commitment. Perhaps SkyWay Center should include an appropriate memorial that celebrates all of the men and women who are building the Maumee River Crossing, particularly those who died or were injured in the process.
A vote of confidence from our fellow Toledoans would be timely and appreciated. However, if a dose of reality suggests otherwise, that has equal value.
Please take time to write or call. Thank you in advance for responding and thank you Toledo Free Press for this forum.
Contact Michael Drew Shaw via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, regular mail at
300 Madison Avenue, Suite 1300, Toledo, OH 43604
Evil is evil, I was told, and a crime is a crime. Anyone who commits an act of violence against another must have at least some feelings of hatred in his heart, it was explained, or he wouldn’t do it at all. So why do we insist on labeling certain types of crimes “hate crimes?”
By calling an illegal act a hate crime, we are merely adding fuel to the fire of racial tension in communities that may already be on the verge of combustion. Or so the argument goes. We can’t single out individual crimes and criminals for special prosecution based on the ethnic characteristics of the victims, as it would unfairly impact the accused and serve to widen the chasm between the majority and the minorities. Rubbish.
A hate crime is generally defined as a crime motivated by prejudice against a certain social group. Victims are not chosen at random, but by design as part of a coordinated effort to make a “statement” in opposition to that group. These crimes are far more dangerous to society as a whole than ordinary street crimes and should be dealt with far more severely.
In Hamilton, Ohio, a small town in Butler County near Cincinnati, the targeted group is the Hispanic population that has exploded there in the last 15 years. Sooner or later, locals say, bigoted residents were likely to lash out at the Hispanics with violence. All they needed was a spark. A reason. An excuse.
The hate mongers got one in June, when a nine-year-old white girl was raped, allegedly by a Hispanic man. Although the man is believed to have left the city, the Hispanic residents he left behind have been forced to endure the backlash. They’ve been confronted on the streets by angry whites looking for vengeance. They’ve been called names by men wearing pillowcases over their heads. They’ve been threatened with violence. And yes, the Ku Klux Klan has emerged in Hamilton, passing out leaflets and intimidating Hispanic residents.
And for what? The residents in that community are guilty of nothing but having the same ethnic background as a cowardly rapist who molested a child and ran. Yet the vigilantes who are tormenting them have decided their shared heritage makes them fair targets for retaliation.
So what should be done with those who would torment and abuse innocent people solely on the basis of their ethnicity? Despite the many arguments to the contrary, I believe these people should pay a much steeper price than ordinary criminals. Don’t agree? Consider:
A guy has too much to drink in a bar, has words with another well-lubricated patron and pops him in the mouth, knocking out a tooth. Across town, another group of guys has hit the streets after hearing about some Hispanic raping a nine-year-old white girl. They’re angry, and they’re not going to stand for it. Sure enough, the first Hispanic guy they encounter pays the price, as one of the group pops him in the mouth, knocking out a tooth.
Two identical assaults with identical results equal identical punishments, right? A crime is a crime, right? Not if I ran the show.
A drunken spontaneous crime is not nearly as dangerous to society as a premeditated assault that targets someone based solely on their color. Even a premeditated mugging motivated by money would be less reprehensible than striking someone just for being different. Hate crimes deserve hateful punishments.
Still not convinced? Then consider the hate crimes perpetrated by the Muslim terrorists who struck us on 9/11. They continue to attack us solely on the basis of our ethnicity, our religious beliefs and our societal standards. These are hate crimes, and if the same arguments were applied by those who don’t believe in special prosecution of hate crimes, we would be forced to treat them all as ordinary murderers. Rather than going to war to kill our enemies, we’d have to follow the liberal agenda outlined after 9/11-— preparing indictments and planning to beat them in court.
But we didn’t. We treated them as hate crimes, punishable by far more serious measures. Just as we should have.
Evil is evil. All evil should be punished accordingly. But only the naïve would argue that some evils are more, well … evil … than others.
Bob Frantz hosts “Bob Frantz and the Morning News” each weekday on WSPD 1370 AM. He may be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.
Malls are a great place to observe the evolution of America’s slow demise. From restaurants to movies to department stores, there is simply no better place to observe the meltdown of the melting pot.
A recent afternoon at a local mall provided a looking glass tour of social interaction that makes Alice’s Wonderland look like a chess match between Alan Greenspan and Norah Jones (an analogy which was supposed to suggest boredom, but now that I think about it, might be fun to see).
My first lesson of the day was about customer service. I made a purchase at a department store, and with my receipt, was given a printed coupon worth $5 on “any future purchase of $20 or more.” I thought that was a nice gesture, until I read the conditions printed on the receipt.
- The coupon was only valid for one day: Saturday, July 16.
- The coupon could not be used with any other coupon or special offer.
- The coupon excluded “selected tires, Levi’s, home electronics, DVD movies, video games, pharmacy items, beer, wine and footwear.”
- The coupon was not valid for “special purchases, sale prices, clearance prices, Land’s End merchandise, Levi’s jeans, auctions on eBay, outlet store purchases, catalog orders, Internet orders, parts and repairs, fragrances, Dyson vacuums, introductory offers, Celestial Star diamonds, fine jewelry, Weber, Maytag, gift cards, automotive services and protection agreements.”
Yikes. I don’t think the Geneva Convention is that restrictive.
My next bit of mall education concerned women’s underwear, so if protracted patter about panties makes you uncomfortable, you might want to turn some pages and see what Kozak and Bergman are writing about this week.
I’ve never been a believer in giving women’s lingerie as a gift; that’s like a safecracker buying the bank manager a dustcover for the vault.
A display at the department store featured women’s underwear with meant-to-be-cute sayings printed on the front panel. One read, “High Maintenance.” Another, “Princess in Training.” The most interesting: “I (heart) Money.”
How’s that for truth in advertising?
I did not linger in lingerie, but as I continued walking, I tried to imagine what secret messages were being sported by women passing by. I’m pretty sure I passed a “Born to Shop,” a “Dream on” and one “I’m calling the police.”
At the Hot Topic store, which I browsed to see which forgotten 20-year-old message T-shirts in my dresser are hip again, I saw some underwear that drained the “pant” right out of panties. There are several designs of women’s underwear that feature the likeness of Napoleon Dynamite. One blue-and-white thong features Napoleon’s nappy head and the word “Dang!”
Maybe Napoleon Dynamite underwear is part of a government program to promote abstinence. I can’t imagine the unveiling of Napoleon’s “Dang!” could inspire anything except an early night.
The day was supposed to end with a movie, but the experience inspired a thought-provoking discussion: Is a wheelchair a license to act like a jerk?
Two rows in front of me at the theater, three guys sat next to a friend who parked his wheelchair in the open space in the row. During the film, the man yelled at the screen, cursed, made lame jokes and behaved as if he were at a bar instead of a cinema, where quiet is supposed to be the rule, not the whim of an obnoxious loudmouth. In almost any other scenario, I would have shushed the loudmouth, tossed M&Ms at him or fetched a flashlight-wielding usher.
But the guy was in a wheelchair. Maybe he was a war vet. Maybe he was a hero cop or fireman. Maybe losing the use of his legs had made him bitter and it made him feel better to ruin other people’s movie nights. There was nowhere for me to go, so I did my best to ignore him. Somehow, the wheelchair shielded him from complaint.
I did find a way to get back at him; I left before he did, and tucked the $5 department store coupon in his backpack.
Maybe he’ll use it to buy his lady some “I’m with Stupid” panties.
Michael S. Miller is Editor in Chief of Toledo Free Press. He may be contacted at (419) 241-1700 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.