Planning Issues

... they fail to plan

The Mayor has recently become enamoured of the German Village down in Columbus. It is a terrific redevelopment in an old urban neighborhood where artists and urban pioneers took hold some years ago and at a certain tipping point developers jumped on board and have done an admirable job of mostly restraining their suburbanizing instincts. It is a nice, primarily residential neighborhood with small quaint houses in a dense neighborhood with a couple appropriate mixed-use nodes.

The Mayor seemed to be intimating "how do we bring this to Toledo." Simple - stop tearing down old buildings and stop creating superblocks in our downtown and warehouse district.

In the last eight years, 32 buildings have been torn down between Madison and Swan Creek. In the dozen or so years before that we lost probably twice that many. This City has been incredibly heavy-handed in its urban planning and the prospects of finding a suitable neighborhood for Toledo to have its own version of the German Village is diminished with each demolition.

The leadership in the City of Toledo does not believe in good planning. People who advocate good planning are viewed as obstructionists or naive do-gooders. But isn't it funny how cities that have strong urban planning efforts, such as Cleveland, Ann Arbor, and Columbus, wind up with strong urban neighborhoods and resulting economic development projects - hummm?! It is the old line - they didn't plan to fail; they failed to plan.

A Convenience Store at Detroit and Byrne

Wednesday, September 19

People in the City of Toledo have become unduly alarmed if not paranoid about neighborhood convenience stores. The clamor and outrage over the approval of a new store on Detroit Avenue at Byne Road is the latest and best example of the extreme over-reaction.

The controversy stems from a handful of problematic convenience stores in the inner city that have had problems with loitering, drug dealing, and prostitution. These stores have been the result of a perfect storm of bad owners, distressed neighborhoods, and problems with enforcement of existing laws. These conditions affect but a few of the hundreds of convenience stores throughout the City.

The most vocal neighbors in the Beverly neighborhood over-reacted to the media reports about these few problem stores and projected those concerns onto this case. They sounded the alarm and got media attention for their cause.

Political leadership should have seen this as an over-reaction and should have explained to the community how this was different than certain other cases and that the convenience store really would be an asset for the community and that the City was in the process of licensing convenience stores which would make it easier to regulate problem stores. Instead, Rob Ludeman flip-flopped on the issue and went from advocating for the store owner to decrying the approval of the convenience store by City Council.

Convenience stores have been around for a hundred years and have been positive central elements in small neighborhood commerical centers. Do remember the UDF or Sterling store in your neighborhood growing up? They provided a great service and they were assets that helped to create a sense of neighborhood by providing a walkable destination and place for neighbors to interact with neighbor.

Hundreds of people who participated in the formation of the 20/20 Plan for the City of Toledo spoke of recreating neighborhoods that had these walkable commerical centers. While we must be vigilant that all businesses operate in a safe and legal manner, residents and politicians must not allow their worst fears to over rule reasonable proposals.