In early February our team visited Toledo and walked around The Warehouse District.
We immediately fell in love with the character and the richness of history within the architecture and urban fabric but were shocked with the plethora of vacant buildings and lots. We saw plenty of local art but one painted wall in Downtown Toledo impacted us the most: “Toledo Loves Love.” This mural spoke to us because we felt that it reflected the people of Toledo, who are resilient and have a hunger for growth to help raise this city back up and thrive.
These are the people we designed for.
Toledo, Ohio, also known as “The City of Glass,” was once a major industrial hub for glass, steel, and automobile production. Located at the south end of Lake Erie and with a rich network of train tracks and rivers running through, Toledo was an important hub for transportation and innovation. From the early 1800’s until the 1970’s, Toledo had a steady increasing population but after 1970, the population declined due to lack of jobs and industries moving out.
After the decline, the urban fabric decayed, the once vibrant district became vacant, while crime and poverty increased. Today, most of the surrounding communities live below poverty and remain disconnected to the urban core by Interstate 75 and Swan Creek, a once vibrant working waterway. Recently, criminal activity has dissipated within the district due to a recent architectural revival of the area, bringing a few locals and businesses back to the district. While visiting the city, talking to locals, and seeing the resiliency first hand, we realized that people have a hunger for growth.
Current masterplans for the city of Toledo focus on rebuilding the Maumee River into an accessible and activated river (The Nautical Mile) and improving surrounding neighborhoods through neighborhood redevelopment and designed public spaces with new transportation modes and routes. Building off those plans, we are creating an opportunity to catalyze projected growth in the Warehouse District through the public realm.
The Loops Project uses three systems to revitalize the district. System one activates the city through tactical urbanism. System two strengthens the identity of the people through identifying four cultural districts. System three unifies the districts and people through a series of loops. The objective of these three systems is to allow the community to take initiative and be involved in the projected growth and success of the Warehouse District.
The Tactical Urbanism System activates underutilized spaces through temporary, low cost changes to the built environment. These changes can come in forms of satellite events, pop up parks, temporary art, etc. They create an organizational and programmatic strategy for permanent programming and bring activity and attention to the district from locals as well as tourists.
The implementation of sub-districts is meant to strengthen the cultural connection of people to their community through emphasis on the city’s character and history. The four sub-districts are St. Patrick’s District, Mudhens District, Glass District, and Steel District. The St. Patrick’s district, like the church, focuses on community inclusive events. The Mudhens District includes the heart and opens up a unique urban typology for gathering spaces for daily life and game day events. The Glass District implements art in the experience of landscape to drive commerce, while the Steel District is a new live- work district that uses outdoor play spaces to spur creativity.
A system of three loops and a heart unifies the four sub-districts creating an engaging outside experience. The loops include the Green Loop, Sports Loop, Art Loop, and The Heart. The Green Loop connects all existing and proposed parks, adding softscape to the existing barren hardscape, cleaning the polluted air, and creating a pedestrian friendly route through the Warehouse District. It allows for an urban escape in a heavily developed area. The Sports Loop connects the hockey and baseball stadiums and convention center and provides for game day congregation and events, creating spaces for America’s pastime. The Art Loop is an extension of the existing Toledo Art Loop and creates an interactive outdoor art experience. The Heart is where all the loops intersect and has a unique urban typology from the rest of the district: activated alleys. This is where the character and identity of Toledo and the Warehouse District are concentrated through art, food and entertainment changing a once avoided area into a playful, unique space.
The Loops masterplan begins with an inexpensive experimental system of tactical urbanism to activate people and explore programming, implements sub-districts to strengthen the cultural identity of communities and provide a deeper sense of belonging, and unifies the Warehouse District through an experiential series of loops and a heart. This masterplan is meant to create a guideline of steps to help the people of Toledo take initiative and spark the evolution of the Warehouse District into a thriving community centric district by bringing humanity and love back to this post-industrial concrete jungle.
My name is Josandra Castillo, I’m a third year Landscape Architecture + Environmental and Urban Design graduate student at Florida International University. I’m looking forward to designing for the people and the environment by improving the quality, security, and sustainability of the area.
My name is Olga Mekari, I am an architect graduated from Venezuela and am currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture at Florida International University. I’m passionate about designing open spaces where art is integrated with the landscape and the community, giving the opportunity to activate abandoned spaces and raise the microeconomy of the area.
My name is Katja Rocha and I am a third-year graduate student pursuing a Masters in Landscape Architecture + Environmental and Urban Design at Florida International University. I plan to apply my education in a career focused on teaching sustainable living and solving social issues through design.
My name is Catalina Dugand and I’m a third-year landscape architecture student currently pursuing my master’s degree at Florida International University. I aspire to put my efforts in designing public spaces where communities can be empowered to live sustainable, recreational, and social lives.