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Developers pour new energy into Vistula District

Posted By: Toledo Blade on November 12 2023.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.


A new food market slated to open on North Summit Street is the capstone to recent development in the Vistula District.

Amid a soft opening of Golden Hind Wine Bar and Pastries, and a third mural completed in Ostrich Towne, the resurrected Westminster Church has garnered two design awards — events that are raising hopes for a new renaissance in the Vistula neighborhood in Toledo.

Toledo entrepreneur Will Lucas, owner of Lucille’s Lounge at 1447 N. Summit St., confirmed recently that he intends to open MILK market. He added that Toledo is just two years away from seeing the Vistula District along the Summit Street corridor really pop.

“The market is in the works,” said Mr. Lucas, advertising it as a deli market offering groceries, coffee, sandwiches, and spirits to be at 1015-1017 N. Summit St. “We are building it. The plan is to open the beginning of 2024, sometime in the second quarter.”

Downtown Toledo has long been designated a “food desert” because of its lack of grocery options. Mr. Lucas’ market, occupying 6,000 square feet along Summit Street, near to the Summit Street Diner, will not be akin to a big-box grocery store.

“This will be a smaller footprint with boutique items. It is a market focused on quality items at affordable prices,” said Mr. Lucas, emphasizing that health and well-being will be underscored.

The entrepreneur, who has put in more than two years of planning on the market project, says he is creating a regional model that can be replicated in other nascent communities that are overlooked by big-brand names. The market will offer sandwiches that can be eaten onsite with indoor and outdoor seating.

Meanwhile, further down North Summit Street, Mr. Lucas’ TolHouse is opening a new haven for professionals and creatives with an open house for members and invited guests on Thursday.

Panda Workspace, 1447 N. Summit St., will offer collaborative workstations, phone booths, and a podcast studio. The co-working retreat aims to meet the needs of entrepreneurs, artists, and remote workers with conference rooms and work lounges. Wireless internet plus advanced remote meeting and AV equipment is available. A coffeehouse and cafe are onsite.

Timing askew?

The $17 million Ostrich Towne development, spearheaded by Northaven Development Group, is moving forward, albeit with at least one setback that may delay the project’s grand opening, which was originally slated for December.

The development offers about 70,000 square feet of building space with the creation of outdoor sculptures and ostrich murals as a hallmark for the business enterprise. Lighting of Ostrich Lane will be changed to complement holidays and seasons.

Ostrich Towne, in Toledo’s Vistula neighborhood, comprises eight buildings with flexible space that can be customized into loft-style interiors, retail and restaurant space, warehouse, and banquet options. It’s named after the alleyway, Ostrich Lane, that runs through the center of the property. This space caters to those seeking an eclectic mix of history, charm, and modernization with a small-town feel.

“We are making progress …. The transformer has been installed,” said Joe Nachtrab, managing member of the business enterprise. “We hope now to have all electrical in our project moved below ground and can finish the alley before end of year. Much later than we planned, but getting there. The alley just won’t look the way I want to have everyone see it until the ugly electric poles and wires are gone.”

“We have also finished a number of art pieces and expect to complete this aspect by end of year as well. All roofs replacement and all exterior work should also be done by end of year,” he said.

Lauren Siburkis, a media representative for FirstEnergy, confirmed the electrical aspects of the project are moving forward.

“Work is ongoing to convert the Ostrich Towne development from overhead lines to underground lines, as requested by the developer to provide outdoor space,” Ms. Siburkis said.

“We’re working with the developer to help coordinate the transfer of telecommunication companies’ wires so that all overhead equipment can be removed,” she said. “The timeline will depend on when all of the telecommunication companies can relocate their equipment.”

Mr. Lucas also intends to extend the Ostrich Towne outdoor theme down Ostrich Lane running along the back of his proposed market.

“The idea is to continue the alley concept. It is going to be really fun back there,” Mr. Lucas said.

The Vistula District developers have pointed to the success of Metroparks in creating spaces where people want to be.

“What is important to me is the ability to emphasize walkability. My dream is to see people outside with their dogs and riding their bikes,” Mr. Lucas said. “We are starting to think of value in this town and that is encouraging. We need decisions that help Toledo realize our potential.”

An Ostrich Lane resident

Mickey Finn, a longtime proponent of the Vistula neighborhood, is in the middle of it all. His name still anchors a block on 602 Lagrange St. with a sign proclaiming Mickey Finn’s Pub, closed now for a decade.

Mr. Finn continues to live in the only private residence on Ostrich Lane — a renovated carriage house from 1867.

“I am the first human being to live here other than a stable boy possibly,” he said of the 968 square feet that wraps itself around an iron-wrought spiral staircase that enticingly reveals its three stories, including brick arches and high ceilings.

Mr. Finn, 78, looks down the lane — don’t call it an alley, he says — and is happy for the latest efforts to boost a community in which he has always believed and invested.

“I put my money where my mouth was,” he said.

In 2020, longtime Toledo preservationist and retired professor Ted Ligibel said he was excited about the possibilities in Toledo’s oldest neighborhood.

“It was a really thriving and energetic place [in the late 1800s] with people on the streets, horses and carriages, industry, and very prominent residences. It’s a textbook of American architecture and Toledo history,” he said at the time.

Vistula neighborhood is just northeast of downtown. It includes an area between Locust and Lagrange streets running north and south, and Summit and Superior streets east and west.

Mr. Finn’s faith remains unshakeable, though he is wistful about how the Mud Hens’ ballfield and the construction of the ProMedica building have pulled much of the city’s energy into the downtown area. He complains that the smell of baking bread no longer wafts through the neighborhood from the now-closed Wonder Bread facility. He misses that aroma.

That also may change as the Golden Hind Wine Bar and Pastries, in Ostrich Towne, hosted its grand opening on Thursday.

Sister owners, Beth and Cassie Drake, were tweaking their recipes last week. With food permit in hand, they are serving during breakfast and lunch hours. Once their liquor permit is approved, the hours will be expanded into the evening.

“Ostrich Towne is coming alive,” said Amy Butler, the front-of-house manager. “This is a new, unique concept that does not exist elsewhere in Toledo. We are ready.”

Ongoing recognition

Earlier renovation efforts in the Vistula neighborhood are also receiving attention.

The American Institute of Architects Toledo Chapter announced its 2023 Design Award recipients and the $9 million renovation of the former Westminster Presbyterian Church, 902 N. Superior St., completed in 2022, won the Special Jury Award for Adaptive Reuse.

The building is the headquarters of Nemsys, a technology solutions company for businesses, owned by Toledo natives Matt Nachtrab and Drew McCallum. The project also earned an honorable mention from Heritage Ohio for Best Commercial Rehabilitation in a large community.

Mr. Finn said he appreciates the attention that is returning to Vistula District in so many ways. He remembers when school children would line up outside the front of his pub with report cards in hand. He would give young students a $1 for each “A,” 50 cents for a “B,” and a quarter for a “C.” He says, to this day, grown men will stop him on the sidewalk and thank him for those memories.

“It was a nice run,” he said of the days when the pub would be packed and live music created a lively beat in the neighborhood.


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