Learning from Toledo, OH

April 18, 2008 16 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Can Jacksonville learn something from the Rust Belt's Glass City: Toledo, OH?


Toledo Population 2006: 298,446 (City); 653,695 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1833)

Jacksonville Pop. 2006: 790,689 (City); 1,277,997 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Toledo (303,616)


 Brief History:

Toledo is known as the Glass City because of its history of innovation in all aspects of the glass industry.  Owens-Illinois, Owens Corning, Libbey Glass, Pikington North America and Therma-Tru are all major companies in the industry headquartered in the Toledo region.

However, something went horribly wrong during the 1970's and the city has yet to figure it out.  Since 1970, Toledo has seen its population decrease by 85,372 residents.  Like many rust belt cities, the back bone of its economy, manufacturing, has continued to decline, trickling down to significant population loss and blight within the city limits.  In an effort to turn things around, the city has announced plans to cover the 81 square miles of the city with Wi-Fi internet access for government, business, and personal use.  If successful, this privately financed plan will create the nation's sixth largest Wi-Fi network.


The Warehouse District

Fifth Third Field opened in 2002, as the home of the Toledo Mud Hens, in the heart of downtown's blighted Warehouse District.  Established in 1896, the Mud Hens are one of minor league baseball's oldest teams.  While the ballpark isn't anything special, its placement near a large amount of abandoned buildings has led to the Warehouse District coming back alive as a nightlife and dining district, with the Stadium as an anchor.





The Downtown Core

Toledo's Central Business District is situated on Maumee River.  While recent improvements are noticeable, the district and city are in the midst of a struggle to overcome a 9.3 percent unemployment rate.  


The 432' One SeaGate is the tallest building in the city (glass tower on right).  Presently the Northwest Ohio headquarters for the Fifth Third Bank, it is the former world headquarters for Owens-Illinois.



 Toledo's SeaGate Convention Centre is similar in size to Jacksonville's Prime Osborn Convention center.  However, it is located in the heart of the downtown core, across the street from the new minor league ballpark and the arena now under construction.



 COSI (Center of Science and Industry) Toledo opened in 1997, replacing what had been the failed Portside Festival Marketplace, a Rouse center similar to the Jacksonville Landing.  The museum attracts an average of 250,000 visitors per year to downtown Toledo.


With the success of Fifth Third Field on the surrounding environment, the city is moving forward with the Toledo Downtown Arena.  The $105 million, 10,000 seat multi-purpose arena will become the new home of the Toledo Walleye hockey team and perhaps an NBA Developmental League team.  A two block area of buildings were razed for this project.


What can Jacksonville Learn from Toledo?

 Despite Toledo's economic struggles, some success in stimulating the redevelopment of the warehouse district has occurred as a result of the placement of Fifth Third Field into an area with a rich amount of existing building fabric still in place.  Locally, we missed the chance to take advantage of this opportunity with our municipal stadium, arena, and ballpark in the Sports District (see image above).

With the county courthouse project appearing to move forward once again, we have the opportunity to correct our urban integration mistakes of the past by designing the county courthouse in a manner that interacts with its built surroundings on all sides, thus reducing the opportunity of creating additional dead pedestrian zones within the downtown core.