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03-12-21 | Feature

Restoring Toledo's Downtown Park

Promenade Park
by MKSK

Promenade Park has been the heart of downtown Toledo, Ohio since it was established in the early 1970s. After realizing the need to renovate the beloved park due to waning downtown activity, health care company ProMedica, a major stakeholder in the organization committed to the downtown's redevelopment, asked landscape architecture firm MKSK to develop a plan for the riverfront project. The 1.2-acre upper park area was raised to street level, sited above a single-story parking structure and includes an open lawn and fountain area with granite "lilly pad" paving. A river-level event lawn makes up the lower park with a public art sculpture and amphitheater terraced seating transitioning down grade to the water.
Public access from the upper park is provided by an ADA accessible path and a procession of stairs. All access routes provide iconic views of the Maumee River and unique vantage points to experience concerts and events. A 100-foot-long custom Ipe wooden bench, designed by the Landscape Architects, is unique to the site in its design and construction. The organically shaped bench navigates the accessible path and provides an edge as the landscape slopes toward a stormwater detention basin.
The Echo sculpture, by Kristine Rumman and Dane Turpening, was acquired by The Arts Commission. Once part of a metal smokestack on the historic Toledo Edison steam plant building seen in the background, the sculpture is a pathway of 11 rings representing the city's transition from past, to present, to future. MKSK assisted the artists with siting and illuminating the iconic piece within the sloping butterfly garden. The use of multi-species perennial pollinators, ornamental grasses, and shrubs creates four-season interest and enhances the experience walking through the tunnel.
The Echo sculpture, by Kristine Rumman and Dane Turpening, was acquired by The Arts Commission. Once part of a metal smokestack on the historic Toledo Edison steam plant building seen in the background, the sculpture is a pathway of 11 rings representing the city's transition from past, to present, to future. MKSK assisted the artists with siting and illuminating the iconic piece within the sloping butterfly garden. The use of multi-species perennial pollinators, ornamental grasses, and shrubs creates four-season interest and enhances the experience walking through the tunnel.
A 12' tall Parisian metal kiosk, originally brought to the park in the 1970s from France, was restored and relocated to display a map and significant historical information of the area.
A terraced lawn is built into the grade change between the upper street level park to the 2.6-acre riverfront lower park, functioning as amphitheater style seating made of precast concrete for large events and a place for visitors and employees to enjoy the river view.
A terraced lawn is built into the grade change between the upper street level park to the 2.6-acre riverfront lower park, functioning as amphitheater style seating made of precast concrete for large events and a place for visitors and employees to enjoy the river view.
Designed as a year-round spectacle, the interactive fountain with pop jets and light animation can be programmed as a dynamic playground on hot summer days or a backdrop during concerts and events. Mounted on an adjacent multi-story parking garage is an LED multimedia display screen.
Employees enjoy unobstructed views of the Maumee River from outdoor patios surrounding the campus office building. Outdoor spaces were designed for day-to-day use and corporate events. Plantings were specifically designed to create a habitat for pollinators and wildlife while continuing a cohesive Midwest prairie design scheme.
ProMedica's downtown headquarters occupies a renovated office building adjacent to Promenade Park, preserving its brutalist style architecture. Much of the original entrance was maintained with the addition of a pair of elegant granite fountains and low-growing perennial gardens.

This 3.8-acre riverfront park in downtown Toledo, Ohio was redesigned as part of a plan to revitalize the city. Tasked with planning the new Promenade Park, landscape architecture firm MKSK created a riverfront open space that appeals to park visitors of all ages as well as employees from the surrounding downtown district.

Located on the Maumee River, Promenade Park has been considered the heart of downtown since it was established in the early 1970s. Extending through the 1980s, Promenade Park was a place for Toledoans to gather for cultural programs, festivals, concerts, and celebrations. Over the years, it became home to Toledo's most beloved events including Party in the Park and Rally by the River.

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Where once it was the community gathering spot, Promenade Park and the surrounding area declined with downtown disinvestment. By the early 2010s, public and private leaders were concerned that downtown Toledo was not experiencing the level of urban resurgence and investment that was occurring in other cities across the region. Some historic warehouse conversion was occurring, and ambitious district plans centered around the Mud Hens minor league baseball stadium were underway, but generally, there was a lack of momentum and focus. To address this and to plan for the future of downtown Toledo, the 22nd Century Committee (now ConnecToledo) was formed, consisting of a broad coalition of public and private sector leaders to align current planning efforts, amplify existing assets, and leverage planned and future downtown investments. In 2016, this resulted in the commissioning of the Downtown Toledo Master Plan. One of the major stakeholders of the 22nd Century Committee, ProMedica, recognized the importance of investing in downtown. Concurrent with the Downtown Master Plan process, ProMedica announced that it would relocate its suburban headquarters, bringing with the move more than 1,000 employees to downtown. The company quickly focused on empty historic structures and office buildings along the downtown riverfront adjacent to Promenade Park.

Their investment in a downtown campus included preservation and revitalization. Significant effort went into planning a modern district while maintaining the early vision of Promenade Park as a celebratory and flexible public open space with access to the riverfront. ProMedica engaged MKSK to develop a plan that would preserve the park as the heart of Toledo, provide an exciting year-round destination for the community, and serve as a vibrant campus for the new headquarters.

The relocated headquarters campus now occupies the historic and iconic Toledo Edison steam plant building and an adjacent office building, supported by a parking structure and a series of public spaces. Site improvements on the campus were designed to enhance the existing structures while maintaining much of the original historic site features by incorporating canal stone, brutalist-style site walls, and reused building materials. Pedestrian environments were designed to provide passive relaxation, outdoor dining areas, and improved connectivity to the downtown district and waterfront. Updates included public spaces for recreation and event programming while servicing the amenity needs of the growing downtown workforce.

A key component of the park improvements was raising a portion of the park to meet the city street level while sloping the park with a 12' transition from North Summit Street to the river. The park is divided into two spaces: the 'upper park' and 'lower park'. The upper park, entirely on one level of the parking garage, connects to the ProMedica headquarters building and takes the form of an urban streetscape at Summit Street extending into a half-acre event lawn. At the street level, the upper park offers downtown residents and family visitors a water play area and open space 'event lawn' for community programmed events, while also providing an inviting passive space for downtown employees to sit, relax, and enjoy the river view. The event lawn is flanked by a 50' LED screen mounted to a multi-story parking garage-a place to view family-friendly movies and cheer on Mud Hens baseball games. Within the upper park, the fountain provides a dynamic attraction with programmed water and light animation. The fountain's granite pavers are shaped like a cluster of lily pads, a nod to Toledo's swampy origins and its nickname, "Frog Town." A restored Parisian kiosk brought to the park in the 1970s, greets visitors along Summit Street and displays information on the riverfront's history and a map of the riverfront corridor, known as the Nautical Mile.

The most dynamic feature of the park is the steep transition from Summit Street to the riverfront. An ADA accessible walk curves down from the upper park/parking structure to the river level, while all access routes provide unobstructed views of the Maumee River and unique vantage points to experience concerts and events. A custom bench arcs along the sloping path as an inviting place for all visitors to pause and take in the view, while the terraced lawn functions as amphitheater seating with views to a temporary stage on the river-level event lawn. Adjacent to the path, a rambling set of stairs provides a whimsical transition through a butterfly garden and signature public art piece. Called "The Echo", the sculpture by Kristine Rumman and Dane Turpening was fabricated from the original smokestack rings of the steam plant building and is a nod to the site's history.

The new Promenade Park has been reinvigorated as the community gathering spot for the region, with the annual ProMedica Summer Concert Series which features regional and national acts. In its inaugural summer, it drew 10,000 visitors to downtown. Promenade Park has also remained true to its original mission of providing cultural programming for all Toledoans. Momentum Toledo, a partnership between The Arts Commission and ProMedica, integrates public art with a larger community-programmed event. The Arts Commission, through its Arts in Public Places Program, partnered with an artist, private donors, ProMedica, and the city in its first year to feature public art connected to the theme of light in conjunction with music and dance performances throughout the downtown and riverfront.

Named a Great Place in Ohio by the Ohio Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA-OH) in October 2020, Promenade Park is once again the heart of downtown and provides an exciting year-round destination and gathering place for the community. The original vision for Promenade Park has been preserved with ProMedica's investment. Toledo's riverfront renaissance is just beginning with many more projects underway, but Promenade Park remains the restored heart along the riverfront.

As seen in LASN magazine, March 2021.

Filed Under: PARK, DEVELOPMENT, STORMWATER, OHIO, LASN
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