Toledo, Ohio, is the largest metropolitan area in northwest Ohio and the fourth largest city in the state of Ohio, with a 2005 estimated population at just over 300,000 residents. However, the extended metropolitan Toledo area has about 620,000 residents, drawing from nearby suburbs, Bowling Green, and the northern suburbs of Toledo up to Monroe, Michigan.
What moves Toledo? The manufacturing industry in Toledo has always been the driving focus of the economy and creates a blue-collar economic base for the region. Glass production has always been the most important industry in Toledo, so much so that Toledo has always been called the Glass City. In addition to glass, the other major industry is auto production. With close proximity to the world’s motor capital, Detroit, the three major automakers have a major manufacturing presence in the Toledo area.
Like other American manufacturing centers, Toledo has fallen on difficult times over the past few decades. The manufacturing base has been depleted as the global economy has taken these jobs out of Toledo and out of the country. Many people have left the Toledo area, evidenced by the stagnant population growth since the 1970s. Many who have stayed have moved outward from the older parts of the city and into suburbs, creating newer, sprawling developments farther and farther away from downtown while the areas around downtown become mired in decay. This is not unique to Toledo or an uncommon practice in America’s cities at all, but it helps set the stage for why the retail climate is the way it is.
Poised for significant change in the near future, Toledo’s retail landscape is worth a closer look. One large, enclosed regional mall located on Toledo’s northeast side has already bit the bullet, closing in early 2005 after years of rapid decline. Two beleagured, older malls in the east and southwest of the Toledo area are in a similar rapid decline while plans for redevelopment are sketchy at best. Meanwhile, two lifestyle centers, one of them over one million square feet, are opening in southwest suburban Maumee and Perrysburg. And to top it all off, a large, but very successful enclosed mall anchors the big-box melee of retail on the city’s northwest side. Further afield, there are also two retail centers in fringe areas of metro Toledo. The first is a small center in Bowling Green, about 20 miles south of downtown Toledo, and the other is in Monroe, Michigan, about 20 minutes northeast.
Here’s a bit more detail about the major shopping centers in Toledo. Look for more detailed articles about each individual mall to come. Each number below refers to the corresponding location with that number on the map above:
1. Westfield Franklin Park Mall – Opened in the mid-1970s, this is currently Toledo’s only successful enclosed mall. Franklin Park was recently acquired by Westfield America and is anchored by JCPenney, Macy’s, and Dillard’s. It is the ‘destination mall’ for the metropolitan area, and of many upmarket and trendy stores this is their only Toledo location. It was expanded and renovated in May 2005 to increase the total square-footage of the mall by 40% to over 1.2 million square feet of selling space. Franklin Park also has a new 16-screen Cinema De Lux movie theatre, Borders, and several destination chain restaurants.
2. North Towne Square/Lakeside Centre – This is the one that bit the dust in February 2005, after years of declining sales. North Towne Square opened in 1980 and was Toledo’s newest enclosed mall. Located in northeast Toledo, its trade area was usurped by the dominant and nearby Franklin Park and the declining economy of the immediate area. Near the end, the moribund mall only had about 20 retailers, most of them local, and no anchors because the last one fled in 2002. During its final year, North Towne Square was renamed Lakeside Centre in a last-ditch effort to promote its proximity to Lake Erie, but it had no positive result.
3. Woodville Mall – The only mall on the east side of the Toledo area, this is one of the enclosed centers that is currently open yet failing. Opening in 1969, it was successful until at least the 1990s when its age began to show and it received very little updates or renovations. However, unlike North Towne Square, the anchors have remained open at Woodville Mall and are vital to its continued success. Despite them, though, stores have emptied out of Woodville Mall at an alarming rate and as of 2006 there were sketchy plans for renovation which would demolish some or all of the mall.
4. Southwyck Mall – Deadmalls.com calls Southwyck a “dead mall museum” and I think that’s an appropriate summation of this one. Its current lone anchor is Dillard’s, who also interestingly owns a majority stake in the mall itself. The dated decor of this beleagured center hasn’t been fashionable for years, but some local stores and a few national chains have held on. Recently, plans call for the remaking of Southwyck into an open air urban village with a residential component, a college campus, and some retail. This would, of course, require demolishing the dead mall museum that’s currently there, and is supposed to take place sometime in 2007.
5. The Shops at Fallen Timbers – Holy Toledo, this has been a contentious project from the start. Originally planned to be built as a gigantic enclosed mall around 2000 or 2001, this contentious and hotly debated development has stalled multiple times and changed architectural forms several times. It will, however, finally open in 2007 as a 1-million-square-foot open-air lifestyle center anchored by Dillard’s and other destination chains and restaurants.
6. The Town Center at Levis Commons – Just across the river from the Fallen Timbers site in Perrysburg, this 350,000 square-foot lifestyle center also contains upscale destination stores, but intentionally markets to women. Think AnnTaylor, Coldwater Creek, and J. Jill, for starters. It is opening in phases, and the first one opened in 2004. The next phase will expand the retail and add residential units to the center and double its size.
There are also two malls in the Toledo area off the map above. They are:
7. Woodland Mall – Located in Bowling Green, about 10 minutes south of Perrysburg along I-75, this little enclosed mall is anchored by Elder Beerman, Dunhams Sports, and Sears. It opened in 1987 and has space for 60 mall stores, most of which are local, with 270,000 total square feet of retail space.
8. Frenchtown Square – This enclosed mall is located about 20 minutes northeast of downtown Toledo along I-75 in Monroe, Michigan. It opened in 1989 and is currently anchored by Elder Beerman, Sears, Steve & Barry’s, and Target and has about 75 smaller stores.
As you can see, metro Toledo is a victim of unchecked growth in the form of urban sprawl fueled by a poor economy. But why did this happen? The beleagured or closed malls fell victim to poor management decisions and shoddy upkeep. They aged to the point where they were no longer attractive to the average shopper, who decided to drive a little farther to spend his or her dollars. This is evident in the continued success of Franklin Park Mall, and the decisions to build two new lifestyle centers, totalling over 1.5 million square feet of new construction, before focusing on fixing the existing suffering enclosed malls. Why is Toledo choosing to build extensive new retail developments when one large enclosed mall is sitting shuttered and two more are on their way? This is especially relevant given light that Toledo is not experiencing any population growth. There are plans to redevelop two of the three malls that have failed as enclosed centers, but these plans came only after two new lifestyle centers were being constructed. Can an area with mostly stagnant growth support all of this new development while refurbishing the retail that has already failed? Time will tell.