Downtown dwellers enjoy rooftop ‘backyards’Written by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
A pool, a patio, a grill, a garden, a place for your dog to romp — all evoke the pleasures of a spacious suburban backyard. But many Downtown residents have made their own private “backyard” oases in an unlikely location — building rooftops.
When her husband first proposed leaving their South End home to move Downtown, Janet Albright resisted.
“I told him, ‘Fine, as long as you find me green space,’” she said. “I didn’t want to move Downtown and I knew he couldn’t find a building with green space.”
But he did — a building on South St. Clair Street with a flat roof, perfect for starting a garden. They’ve lived there now for more than 10 years and Albright is a Downtown convert — in large part due to her rooftop “sanctuary,” a popular gathering place for family and friends.
She and her husband, Richard Rideout, live on the top floor of the three-story building and lease the other two floors. Transforming the building into their dream home was a “labor of love,” but worth the effort, Albright said.
“The cool part for us was we had a blank canvas,” Albright said.
Today, their private rooftop features potted herbs and flowers along with a deck, dining area, refrigerator, grill, bar, TV and more. They even have trees — two hardy corkscrew willows. Her blueberry bush didn’t survive the winter, but her rose bushes are blooming. The only thing she doesn’t have is vegetables.
“My one sore spot,” Albright said. “I cannot get them to grow. It’s not them; it’s me.”
The couple’s “backyard” is a popular gathering spot for family functions; there’s even been a wedding held there.
“It’s like a sanctuary,” Albright said. “It’s no different than having a great backyard and hanging out on your patio when you live in the suburbs, but mine’s up four stories up and I have a beautiful view of the city. We can see all the bridges and have a beautiful view of the river.”
This summer, the rooftop deck is being remodeled so Albright isn’t able to utilize the area as much as she’d like.
“I am in absolute withdrawal right now,” she said.
A few blocks away on Washington Street, residents at Bartley Lofts were hanging out at their rooftop pool.
“The pool really sealed the deal for me,” said resident Kate Kelley. “It was a big selling point. My husband said, ‘Oh, boy.’ He knew we weren’t going anywhere else once I saw that.”
Kelley, who works Downtown as a financial adviser for New York Life Insurance Company, traded a two-hour commute in downtown Baltimore for a two-minute commute in Downtown Toledo.
The rooftop lounge area also features a grill and periodic wine tastings, Kelley said.
“Everyone congregates here in the summertime. You get to know people. It’s like ‘Melrose Place’ in a good way,” she joked. “You make a lot of friends up here — and a lot of friends in the city when you tell them you have a pool.”
Having a great vantage point for fireworks is another perk of access to a Downtown rooftop, said Bartley Lofts resident Emily Lamb.
“Fourth of July is perfect,” she said. “You can see the Mud Hens as well as Downtown, Maumee, everywhere.”
A Downtown building with a rooftop patio offers “the best of both worlds” — walking distance to coffee shops, bars and restaurants, but also a “backyard” oasis to hang out in at home, Kelley said.
“I spend a lot of time up here,” she said. “I’m spoiled by the view and the pool.”
A few blocks away, Isaiah Harris, 16, who is living in Toledo for the summer with his dad at La Salle Apartments on Adams Street, said he likes to use the rooftop for entertaining friends. The spacious patio that stretches the full length of the building.
“It’s really nice when you have visitors,” he said.
But his favorite part of his Toledo backyard is watching sunsets.
“The one thing I love personally is watching the sun turn different colors,” Harris said. “It’s just amazing.”
La Salle resident Jasmine Cogdell likes to use the roof to write songs and play with her Yorkshire puppy, Tokyo.
Even though it’s a shared space, it feels private because most people keep to themselves, Cogdell said.
“I come up here to write, to drink. It’s peaceful,” said Cogdell, a Bowling Green State University student studying special education. “I like to sit up here and chill. It’s nice to have this.”
La Salle resident Michael Seay also enjoys the roof as much as possible.
“I live up here in the summer,” said Seay, who said he likes to grill out and entertain guests. “It’s nice to be Downtown. I live here for convenience, for getting around.”
His roommate, Nick Amrhein, a photographer, said he likes to utilize the rooftop for photoshoots.
The Commodore Perry Apartments on Jefferson Avenue doesn’t have a rooftop patio, but is “very pet-friendly” and offers a small private “dog park” area for resident dogs to interact and do their business while their owners to sit and talk, said resident Kristen Mollenkopf.
Aaron Bonnough moved Downtown to the Standart Lofts about two months ago because he wanted a change. He was a little afraid he would miss his Springfield Township backyard, but now he says he shouldn’t have worried.
“There are aspects I do miss about having a backyard, but there’s so much space up here. I was surprised how much,” Bonnough said from the rooftop patio of the Erie Street apartment building, which features patio furniture and a large grill. “I miss having a lawn — but I don’t miss having to mow it.
“It’s a nice atmosphere to hang out in. I haven’t used the grill yet, but people are always up here,” Bonnough said.
Albright said she loves living Downtown and has no plans to leave.
“Anybody who has anything negative to say about Toledo, I’d like them to come to my home and stand on my roof and have a nice glass of wine or an iced tea and they will understand why it’s a great city,” Albright said. “It’s what you make of it.”
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