Remembering the decade in City Politics
Happy New Year, ya weirdos!
We rung out the old with a brief retrospective on the waning of the last decade. Ten years is way too much for one lil’ ol’ column, especially since the recent decade has been full of changes for better, or for worse, in the Swamp. Here are more of our musings on the passage of time, twenty oh nine through twenty nineteen.
The Toledo Riverfront. Back in oh nine, the Docks were in a doldrums. Restaurants had come and gone. Those in the middle spaces were right sized, while the end spaces were cavernous, making economic viability difficult. The Marina District was a bunch of artists’ renditions that had never come to fruition, with a shiny new Road To Nowhere through the middle, the latter the brain child of He Who Shall Not Be Named. On the other side of the Big Muddy, the Steam Plant sat as a hollowed out hulk of neatly stacked bricks. The adjacent park was in dilapidated disrepair, Party in the Park was a distant memory, and empty liquor bottles sat under worn out benches.
Mayor Mike Bell brought renewed vision for the waterfront. He brought in Chinese investors to snatch up the Docks and the Marina District, complete with a much ballyhooed ground breaking and a now-lost rock with Chinese characters. Then, crickets.
Fast forward to the present. Promedica’s move downtown has rejuvenated Promenade Park, bringing thousands of visitors to a new summer concert series each year. The Steam Plant has been renovated and expanded into Promedica’s world headquarters. The Docks continue to slowly rejuvenate, with the recent opening of Hamburger Mary’s filling the last remaining empty space. And the Marina District will soon be a reality, with apartments and commercial spaces set to open this year, and a brand new Metropark in the works.
The Road to Nowhere finally led somewhere, to the popular and ever-growing Museum of the Great Lakes.
It has been a long time coming, but at long last, Toledo’s waterfront is getting the attention it deserves.
Downtown hotels. Talk about a mixed bag. Ten years ago, the Park Inn was for sale. The old Holiday Inn sat vacant. The old Hotel Sofitel want through a revolving door of different owners and different franchise affiliations. The outlook for travelers heading to downtown was bleak and fading.
Now, the old Sofitel has received tens of millions of dollars in renovations, transforming into the aptly-named Renaissance. It is topped by the popular Heights night spot. Meanwhile the Park Inn was sold to a new investment group. The County has plans to renovate and expand its connection to the Convention Center, reorienting the entrance and rebuilding the ball room.
And then there’s the old Holiday Inn. The aging building fell into disrepair under its most recent owners until it was finally abandoned. The County took it over, promising to demolish it to make way for new construction. Part way through the demolition process, the County got the bright idea to save the concrete shell, marketing it to new potential developers.
And so it sits, an empty husk in the heart of a vibrant, fast-developing downtown, The nearby Tower on the Maumee, formerly Owens Corning world headquarters, is rapidly filling up with new tenants. Commercial space in the adjacent parking garage is now full, including an innovative indoor urban farm. The County has announced several developers for the old hotel. But nothing. An eyesore. Which brings us to…
Southwyck. And Northtowne. Oh nevermind, we don’t have much to say about these obvious eyesores. The City’s many plans at redevelopment have been just as hollow as the empty downtown hotel owned by the County. Nuff said.
City Politics. That’s right, the very nature of City Politics has changed over the last ten years. In oh nine, the Board of Education was constantly in the news, first for infighting, then for budget woes, then for superintendent searches. City Council was in a constant battle with He Who Shall Not Be Named over the budget in free fall. Council was dominated by Democrats, but with a small counterbalance of Republicans, including Rob Ludeman. The Board of Elections was a statewide laughing stock.
Within the next few years following 2009, City Politics had taken several twists and turns. The Board of Education calmed down with the departure of Robert Torres and Darlene Fisher and the demise of the so-called “Urban Coalition.” Self-proclaimed Independents rose to prominence, as Sandy Spang and Mike Collins were elected to Council, and Mike Bell was elected Mayor, only to be defeated in twenty thirteen by Collins.
Now, the Board of Ed is still rarely in the news. All the afore-mentioned Independents are out of elected office, and Council has eleven Democrats. But Rob Ludeman, the walking dead of City Politics, remains, having served for decades in a clear repudiation of purported term limits.
And the Board of Elections remains a statewide laughing stock. A breath of stability, for all the wrong reasons, in City Politics.
What a decade, dudes and dudettes! Cheers to the decade to come!