Vistula Revival: Big Changes and Renovations in Toledo’s Oldest Neighborhood

In 1837, two villages along the Maumee River decided to come together to form Toledo, the city we all know and love. While that was nearly two centuries ago, those historic settlements have not been forgotten as more attractions and renovations are breathing new life into the area known as Vistula.

Recognized as Toledo’s oldest neighborhood,  Vistula is a square of land adjacent to downtown Toledo, roughly encompassed by Champlain, Magnolia, Summit, and Walnut Streets. After years of flagging commercial activity and with many of the buildings falling into disrepair, things have now taken a turn for the better with rebuilding in the area, now waiting to become a hot-spot.

Gateway at Lowertown

The old Westminster Church on Locust St. and a large section of buildings bound by Lagrange, Locust, Summit, and Superior is a project that co-developers and longtime friends Fred Treuhaft and Blake Underwood saw as an opportunity in the fall of 2019, with ideas of recreating the space in an opportunity-zone and historic district.

Once completed, Westminster Church will become a large office space, with an added mezzanine, for Underwood’s company, NEMSYS.  Featuring large, open spaces, with lots of windows designed to match historic standards. “You can’t guess what it was before. You have to restore it to what it was, and it has to be documented as what it was…. The church’s ceiling, the beautiful plaster ceiling that we found, we have restored it with a distressed look. We couldn’t restore it to the original, because we have no pictures of the original,” explained Treuhaft. 

Besides the office space, other adjacent buildings in this project will be transformed into shops, a bakery, housing, a large food hall/dining space for local chefs to come and bring in their own supplies, and much more. Beyond the physical buildings, Treuhaft and Underwood plan to turn Ostrich Lane, which runs directly between the buildings, into a pedestrian walkway. There will be outdoor seating, alluring lighting and a welcoming atmosphere.

Pictured above is the inside the Westminster Church during renovations. While looking to add in modern amenities and styles, distressed ceilings and stonework, as well as old gymnasium floors, are unique focal points to the spaces.

“My goal is for you to want to live here,” Treuhaft said. “There was a resurgence in the 80s in some of the properties, and it just never got traction. So, it fell into major disrepair again. Vistula is the closest neighborhood to downtown, and when you look at the central business district and the vitality that’s happening, there are huge opportunities to reactivate and re-energize this area.”

TolHouse & Market

Another spot in the area, the up-and-coming social club, TolHouse, is at the corner of Bush and N. Summit Streets. Will Lucas, TolHouse owner, was inspired by a trip he took over six years ago to New York City where he visited a  private club and was obsessed with the experience. 

“I had never seen a club like it – one where the members were in jeans, cool t-shirts, the atmosphere was beautiful, and everyone was a part of the creative industries… [TolHouse is] a playground for the adult, city-dwelling creative and entrepreneurial class…Secretly, TolHouse is where I want to hang out so it was partially built for me and others like me!” Lucas said.

The club features multiple bars and lounges, as well as a full kitchen, more than three menus for food options, a coffeehouse, jazz club, golf simulator, yoga studio, quiet and collaborative workspaces and much more. Members can find just about anything and everything they’d need to be creative and fulfilled. “I don’t know that everyone should [be a member]. I think people who identify as creative, entrepreneurial, and are determined to do whatever work they do in the best way they can do it to help Toledo be what it could be if we got out of our own way, those are the ones best suited for TolHouse Membership.”

Lucas plans to create a new market, opening in a neighboring Summit St. building.  He plans to have it up and ready by early 2023,  as a premium market with local produce, private labeled items, a cafe, and a bar.

Owner Will Lucas. Photo by Jedah McGee from Creadio

WonderBread Lofts

Ambrea and Kevin Mikolajczyk haven’t been loafing around when it comes to renovating the old Wonder Bread building at Summit and Ostrich Lane. The massive building has been completely renovated while still keeping its older charms, into thirty-three generous apartments, with some great views, in this ideal near-downtown location.

Ambrea and Kevin Mikolajczyk. Photo by Creadio.

Leasing began while construction was still underway, and all units were fully leased when construction was finished in December 2021. The first move in was in October, 2021 and today all units are occupied and the tenants are loving their new homes.

The Wonder Bread building was being considered as a possible tear-down, but the couple refused to let that happen. “The former factory is now preserved and will stand tall for years to come from what our team was able to accomplish. It was the hardest project ever, but certainly the most rewarding, we’re incredibly proud. The Lofts at WB celebrate the strength of Toledo’s heritage while opening the door to the future of modern living. The old factory is now a vibrant living place for people to gather and make memories,” said Ambrea.

All About Support

Ambrea Mikolajczyk sums up what these renovation projects are all about. “What an exciting time for Vistula and Toledo as a whole. We now have more opportunities for people to come downtown and enjoy themselves not simply in the Central Business District or Warehouse District but people can live and have fun in Vistula as well. I’m so proud of the foundation laid by the more recent risk-takers such as Dreams of Tomorrow Daycare, Toledo Public Schools, Toledo Spirits— all of which made it possible for us to take a chance on WB, The Lucas’s to take a chance on Tolhouse, Fred and Blake to take a chance on Lowertown at Gateway, and so much more to come including The Metroparks initiatives.  All of our efforts support one another’s growth, and thereby we’re made stronger together.”

Ambrea and Kevin Mikolajczyk. Photo by Creadio.