Down but not out of townWritten by Jim Ellis | | email@example.com
I was surprised recently when I heard to story of the guy who went around bashing windows at Fort Industry Square … you know, Downtown. When captured, the vandal apparently claimed he wanted attention … Downtown. Toledo? He must be new in town.
Anyone from around here would know it’s tough to get attention Downtown. If there is one feature of Downtown, it’s that you could fire a cannon down the street at high noon and hit … absolutely nothing. In fact, last summer, the military came through town one weekend to practice urban warfare tactics, and except for a raised eyebrow or three at the bus stop, they had no audience at all. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they were disappointed at not having at least a few civilians to dodge around now and then.
Downtown Toledo would make an ideal movie set. It looks like a generic American city. The only drawback is not being able to find the people to populate it for the filming.
For more than 30 years, Toledo’s Downtown has been popular with Toledoans only as a place to … no, a place where … no … OK, Downtown was never a place most of us even consider, outside of “boy, it’s too bad there’s nothing to do downtown.” Enthusiastic entrepreneurs have spent time and fortunes trying to give us a Downtown to go to. The Portside Market’s headaches have been inherited by the Erie Street Market, The Hotel Sofitel became the Crowne Plaza, Wyndham, a few others and I Think I’ve heard its back to Crowne Plaza again. Kelsey’s is now the Easystreet. But there just aren’t enough people to keep things going.
Oh, sure, there’s Fifth-Third Field on game days and the Valentine on show nights, a couple of would-be nightspots here and there, a few restaurants open days, even a Packo’s, but it’s still just not there yet. A new Arena will get a few more to come on down, but these are still one-time visitors. Offices Downtown close at 5 p.m. and the place is deserted by 5:15 p.m.; we can’t even create traffic jams. Lofts and renovations are establishing some permanent settlement, but the place is still pretty tomblike on the weekends and many nights.
What we need Downtown is more housing, more entertainment, more shopping, more restaurants. We are still not quite to what some have called critical mass, but there might be a little momentum. For years I joked that even criminals don’t operate Downtown, so this vandal might be the first robin of spring?
When was the last time you were just Downtown? Not for something … just down here. I mean, I know it’s easier to just gripe, but come on down, have a latte at the Beaner’s, grab a magazine at Leo’s, see the big fence and pretend there’s an arena. Have a bite at the Blarney. Take a look around. And don’t worry about that cannon down the street … it’s just a little test.