After public hearings and work by Toledo’s planning director, the Toledo City Council Wednesday voted unanimously to allow the land use zoning of the old Mary Harrison School to go to commercial. Before the school closed in 2005, its land use was “public use,” reflecting the desires of the pioneer family that donated the land on which the school was built. After the school closed down in 2005, it lay empty for a number of years until the Olalla Center took it over in order to house its programs for enhancing child development among local children.
Since the takeover, the Floweree Community Center has also found a home in part of the old school. A few businesses have tried to make a go of it at the school but so far it’s been difficult; partly due to the fact it was still zoned for being a school.
Behind the zone change was the Olalla Center’s desire to allow low key, commercial enterprises, possibly artisan shops, art galleries, photography studios and others that would help give a boost to Toledo’s burgeoning arts community while helping to further the goals of the Olalla Center and Floweree Community Center, the Floweree Center providing a home for child day care center, boys and girls scouts, 4-H activities and more.
A number of neighbors living near the site complained that they fear the old school might become more commercialized and pose a threat to their neighborhood’s peace and quiet, especially on the weekends. However, Olalla officials told the group that the whole aim of owning the building was to improve Toledo’s quality of life and community culture. They said if they let the property go too far to the commercial side, it would jeopardize Olalla’s permission to hold onto the place. If the use of the property strayed to far afield of performing its education mission, the donating family would be in a position to take it back at that point. City Manager Michelle Amberg said it’s up to Olalla House to run it in such a way that it fulfills the goals of the donating family and of the children entrusted to them.
With this new commercial zoning taking effect, it’ll give Olalla Center a wider choice of possible stores or vendors to rent space that’s not being used currently.