A Plan for an Historic Overlay District along Dorr Street Is Coming Soon

Esther Tetteh, urban planner; Robert Smith, AALP founder and president; LC Commissioner Anita Lopez

The Truth Staff

On Wednesday, May 22, the first step of a plan to develop a thriving “historic overlay” business district along the Dorr Street corridor was announced during a press conference at the African American Legacy Project (AALP). The concept of the plan will be to bring the area to life much as it was during the glory days of the old Dorr Street – before “urban renewal” destroyed the thriving commercial district.

“It seems like these are the first steps,” said Robert Smith, founder and president of the AALP. “But the first steps really started 20 years ago when we first started documenting Dorr Street and trying to impress upon the community the value of this community and we think that today represents a milestone that we’re about to reach.”

Smith was joined at the press conference by Lucas County Commissioner Anita Lopez and Esther Tetteh, Toledo city planner with the Toledo-Lucas County Plan Commission.

“The Toledo Plan Commission has agreed to work with us,” said Smith. “It has been a journey to get to this point and today represents a milestone.”

The goal of the movement is to replicate, as best as possible, the Dorr Street commercial district that contained numerous Black-owned businesses during the strip’s heyday in the 1960’s – grocery stores, shops, restaurants, professional offices, salons and barber shops, among others.

The goal is also to avoid the unpleasantness caused by last year’s City of Toledo outreach to the Dorr Street community during which the city brought onboard city planners from the Collaborative consulting firm, at the cost to taxpayers of $25,000, to produce a study to devise development possibilities for the Dorr Street corridor. Collaborative unveiled the plans to the Dorr Street community in a meeting at the Mott Branch Library that was an absolute disaster, as Tetteh acknowledged last week.

Clearly Smith hopes to avoid that negative reaction from the community.

Commissioner Lopez has only been in office for a few months but Smith noted that she reached out quickly to help with the effort to revitalize the Dorr Street corridor.

“We look forward to seeing the work from the city,” said Lopez, referring to whatever the City’s planners can put together. “Any development along the Dorr Street corridor is good for all of us … we’ve talked about this for years. I still remember Edna Brown wanting to champion development along the corridor.”

Lopez noted she is looking forward to seeing “new energy, new ideas at the County” to assist in the effort.

“When we bring development, it brings jobs. When we bring jobs, it brings a brighter community for our next generation,” she added.

As part of the process of collecting ideas for the Dorr Street historic overlay district, the AALP is organizing a bus trip to Columbus on July 10 to visit the King-Lincoln District. Those on board will visit the King Arts Complex, hear presentations by Complex creator Larry James and former Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman (a Toledo native). After lunch the riders will visit the rest of the District including the Lincoln Theater.