Monday, June 30, 2008

Rust Belt Toledo

Lately, people are e-mailing me blog fodder. As a result, this week's slate is dedicated to a series on Ohio Rust Belt cities in the Toledo Blade. Thanks to i will shout youngstown for the tip.

I'm not inclined to review the series in chronological order. But since I blogged about Toledo migration yesterday, I'll start where the Blade did. Toledo is not exceptional regarding this recent trend of downtown decline. All of Ohio's big cities, including Columbus, are concerned about the vitality of their central business districts. Here is the crisis in a nutshell:

When glass-maker Owens-Illinois Inc. decamped for the suburbs two years ago, it set off a negative chain reaction in downtown Toledo’s office and retail sectors.

Bellacino’s Pizza & Grinders locked its doors for good. Ditto for nearby Quizno’s Subs. Owners of the upscale Diva restaurant called it quits. And Ken’s Flower Shop shut its downtown operation.

The losses were a buzz-kill for downtown boosters hopeful after the success of the community’s minor-league ballpark, opening of new night spots and condos, and start on a new sports and entertainment arena.

“We have to recover again,” laments downtown booster Bob Seyfang, who owns property in the city core and is involved in efforts to preserve the area’s architecture.

But the situation in Toledo is not unique.

I might be admonished for my ignorance, but I had no idea that Rust Belt cities were experiencing a fresh round of economic challenges. The mortgage crisis hit Ohio hard, but the malaise reportedly started earlier this decade. There has been a steady stream of job losses, further hollowing out these cities.

I won't spend this week looking deeper into what appears to be a dire situation. The articles balance hope with despair and I intend to look at the city profiles through the lens of opportunity. I'm looking for places to invest energy and further the Cleveburgh Corridor vision.

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