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Vibrancy Initiative aims to spur millions in investment in Toledo

Posted By: Toledo Blade on May 29, 2024.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

Toledo hopes to turn nearly $1 million in grants into more than $21 million in private-sector investment across the city.

Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz and Brandon Sehlhorst, director of economic development, announced at a news conference on Wednesday the selection of 18 Vibrancy Initiative projects expected to spur $21.6 million in investment across the city.

Launched in 2021, the Vibrancy Initiative is a robust economic development tool aimed at enhancing Toledo’s vitality through strategic investments in revitalization projects that focus on job creation, blight reduction, and preservation and improvement of older structures.

“We’ve been successful with the initiative in the past. As our budget gets a little tighter, the funding for this initiative was in doubt, and we had a debate over it,” said Mr. Kapszukiewicz, who praised council for eventually allocating $854,000 for the project.

“We’re leveraging the $854,000 into over $21 million of private-sector investment that will benefit 18 different projects around Toledo. All of the funds are dedicated toward taking a structure and getting it ready to host jobs,” he said.

The news conference was held at Main and Front streets in East Toledo in front of the historic and rundown Weber Block building and WIC, operated by the Neighborhood Health Association, one of the 18 groups to get funding.

“A year and a half ago, bricks started falling from these historic structures down onto the street. It was not safe,” Mr. Kapszukiewicz said. “There was some worry that the entire structure could fall. To go from that to a situation today when we’re talking about investing millions of dollars into buildings that will be fortified with these investments is exciting,” he said.

Another reason for holding the news conference at Main and Front streets was the location’s proximity to the project funded by a $28 million federal grant that will support major improvements to the Front Street and Main Street corridors, better connecting East Toledo to the downtown riverfront and Glass City Metropark, Mr. Kapszukiewicz said.

“This is just another piece of the transformation of this corridor in East Toledo, a part of Toledo that rightfully felt over the years it was being ignored by the city. This is another example that we’re investing in all of our neighborhoods,” he said.

The Vibrancy Initiative was created by the Department of Economic Development as the result of frequent conversations with small businesses, developers, and neighborhood organizations regarding the need for more programs to assist and incentivize property owners to invest in commercial structures in Toledo neighborhoods, Mr.Sehlhorst said.

“Redeveloping these buildings often presents a financial challenge, where the required investment often exceeds the expected revenue. The initiative was created to address this challenge,” he said.

The initiative includes the Facade Improvement grant and White Box grant programs.

To date, these programs have supported more than 62 projects that have leveraged over $80 million in private sector investments, Mr. Sehlhorst said.

“These investments have not only assisted 18 existing businesses in retaining 300 jobs but have also attracted 21 new businesses, creating 145 new jobs for our community. These numbers tell a story of growth, resilience, and a city on the rise,” he said.

The department of economic development introduced two pilot programs this year aimed at building a pipeline for future facade and white box grant applications within the designated Old South End and Englewood Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Areas, Mr. Sehlhorst said. The Facade and White Box Planning grant programs will fund assessments, design, and engineering services necessary for a construction project.

“We are thrilled about the potential of the pilot planning grant programs. As we continue to work in the NRSAs, we recognize the importance of innovative partnerships to enhance vibrancy. We believe these planning grant programs will be a valuable resource for driving progress in these areas,” Mr. Sehlhorst said.

“We’re very excited about this opportunity to reinvest in these properties,” said Shane Douglas, chief operating officer of the Neighborhood Health Association, which was awarded $75,000.

“We hope to grow this into a larger resource center. The project will certainly add a new face to these buildings and give us a new, fresh, clean look that will hopefully entice folks to be more interested in what’s going on here and partner with us on some of the great work that we bring to the community,” Mr. Douglas said.

Other groups to receive funding include Toledo Seagate Food Bank of Northwest Ohio, which was awarded $40,000, and Toledo Cultural Arts Center, which received $20,000.


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