Giant Sucking Sound: Economic Piracy in City Politics

. December 19, 2018.

It’s finally a done deal.

A new I-475 interchange at Dorr Street, decades in the making, finally has enough local match money to put it on the ODOT docket. Construction is slated to begin in a little over a year.

The new interchange has been touted as a economic development engine. The stretch between Central Avenue and Airport Highway is the longest portion on the western edge of the I-475 beltway without an exit. The new interchange will make the land to the east and west of the highway instantly development ready. In fact, plans for a new major hotel, retail and residential area are already on the table, and developers say they have already received tons of inquiries about the planned space.

In addition, allowing access to Dorr Street from the beltway creates a brand new gateway for the University of Toledo. The University and the City have invested millions in creating an attractive entry point on the south side of campus. It will now be connected by a four-lane 45-mph corridor to the beltway and beyond.

What’s not to love?

Westgate no more

Plenty, if you don’t live in Springfield Township.
The new multi-million dollar development will be built in the township, on the west side of the beltway, in a zone that will split tax revenue generated with the City of Toledo. Sounds like a win-win. Until you remember, retail and residential development doesn’t create wealth, it redistributes it.

There is a limited and static demand for shopping in the Toledo region as a whole. Demand isn’t growing. That means if demand shifts toward one retail site, it is coming from another retail site. Growth one place equals decline somewhere else.

Ditto the demand for housing. The population of the region is stagnant. Unless and until population grows, folks moving in one place in our community are moving out of someplace else in our community. It’s not development, it’s redistributing the demand.

Gain here is drain there. So where would the drain likely occur?

We’ll give you a hint. Look at a map of Toledo. The Dorr-I-475 interchange is due west of Toledo. It would be the true West Gate.

Currently the gateway to UT is Secor Road, The reorientation of the University toward Dorr Street, plus the new interchange, will likely reorient UT traffic south and west. Hotel development there will hurt the new hotels at the Secor-I-475 interchange. Retail development along Dorr will drain the last gasps of life from retail on Secor Road. You know, what we now call Westgate.

Once Ottawa Hills Village Council killed the plans to widen Secor between Central and Bancroft, the writing was firmly on the wall. Out of town travelers simply will no longer use Secor, with its narrow scary lanes, to get to campus when they can fly down the broad and sleek new Dorr St. The blight caused by the closing of Sears and Elder Beerman could be just the beginning of the decline of Westgate and the Secor corridor, only to be hastened by the new interchange.

The real loser in all this is the City of Toledo. While the City shares tax dollars with Springfield Township in the newly developed areas which will surround the interchange, the City will lose much more in the loss of revenue as Secor declines. The winner? Springfield Township, of course, which has nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Asleep at the wheel

Creating winners and losers within the Toledo region is not sound regional planning. Developing one area without considering the impact on the region as a whole is short-sighted. Developing one area while neglecting its contribution to the destruction of another within the region is foolish.

Who should be the arbiter of such regional planning? Who should ensure one jurisdiction doesn’t suck the life out of another?

Lucas County, that’s who. Lucas County, who gets the majority of their income form tax dollars generated within the City of Toledo. And is throwing millions of those tax dollars into the new interchange. Regional planning be damned.

Lordy bejeezus we hope we’re wrong. We hope the new interchange includes something that grows the pie, rather than simply cutting the slices differently. We hope it’s a win-win-win-win-win-winner for everyone, a chicken in every pot and two cars in every garage!

We’re not holding our breath.

  • Eric Krupp

    I’m pretty sure that this will NOT kill Secor Road. In fact, it will relieve some of the Secor Road traffic but certainly will not kill it.