Toledo: A Revival on Adams Street

My wife and I moved from Toledo

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to Northeast Ohio almost eight years ago. Today we certainly consider Lakewood to be our home. But if you ask either one of us where we are from, we will proudly proclaim Toledo. It is the place that provided both of us with fantastic memories and shaped our identities. Not coincidentally then, it is source of intense pride in the Sattler household, so much so that a few years ago when a friend jokingly derided Toledo during a party in our home, we immediately discontinued his drinking privileges – a minor punishment for a major infraction. To this day, we still take great pride in Toledo and believe it to be a great place to call home. For us, it just so happened that our careers led us 100 miles east, but it has not done anything to diminish our appreciation for the city and its residents.

So when we have the opportunity, as we did this past weekend, to return to Toledo we take it. This weekend we were in town to visit family and get a furlough from the wardens (our almost three-year old and almost 1-year old children). Happily, this visit would provide us with the unique opportunity to experience and appreciate the Toledo we knew and loved as 20-something professionals, albeit on a severely restricted schedule.

We knew that a night out in Toledo would offer us a look into our past, what we did not expect was a glimpse into Toledo’s potential future. After dropping off the circus at my mother-in-law’s (who graciously accepted it without complaint), we headed to the Ottawa Tavern. Full disclosure – my brother manages the OT and greatly influences where we choose to go when in town. When we left Toledo eight years ago, we had spent the previous few years as downtown residents with limited entertainment options, so we were eager to witness firsthand what my brother had been talking about for the last few years. He had primed us during our past trips home and by passing along news articles, but it is fair to say we were still skeptics.

When we left Toledo, Adams Street was home to Manos, Manhattan’s, Bretz, and Wesley’s. Today, while there have only been two material entertainment additions to this list – the OT and the Attic – it seems that the energy of Adams Street and Uptown has changed dramatically. Certainly, two additional entertainment options helped propel this change, but after a visit it is clear something else happened here over the past eight years, something that was not planned, but rather envisioned by the original pioneers (Bretz, Manos, and Wesley’s) and later risk-takers (Manhattan’s, the OT, and the Attic). When we left eight years ago, despite my professional experience and academic credentials, I could not have imagined a bar like the OT thriving in Toledo, let alone on Adams Street. It is a good thing for Toledo that there are people that see things differently than I do, think differently than I do, and have a different (and frequently better) vision for the future of a neighborhood.

It is a good thing for Toledo because great places to live are not built through complex strategies or catchy slogans, they are built by everyday people, leveraging a broad range of skill sets. Great places are not built by economists or bankers alone, they are built by people that care deeply about the place they call home, people invested in the future of their home, and people committed to ignoring what’s broken and instead focusing on what will work. Despite what you read, these people in large part are not development officials, elected officials, or corporate leaders. Yes, all are critical to sustained success, but placemaking, like the kind happening in Uptown right now, is driven by a group of committed and entrepreneurial people. This is not an innovative or new thought in neighborhood development, but it was nice to be reminded of how it works in practice during our visit. Kudos to the pioneers and risk-takers on Adams Street, you have made Toledo a better to place live, visit, and do business. To those investors, business owners, and residents in Toledo still sitting on the sidelines, waiting to visit or invest in Uptown, I encourage you to spend a few weekends on Adams Street, I suspect you will leave feeling as bullish as I do about the long-term prospects of the neighborhood.

— Matt Sattler

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