Close your eyes. Imagine a city in the Midwest, one rich in natural resources at the juncture of a Great Lake and a major river. The city boasts a world-renowned art collection, architecture by Gehry, Burnham, SANAA, and an arts commission devoted to public art into everyday life. The city is home to restaurants—from Lebaneseto Hungarian—that are the lore of TV legend. What is this city?
Yes, it’s Toledo. The city is culturally rich, and sited on the largest watershed feeding the Great Lakes, the Maumee River. Like other Rust Belt cities, Toledo has suffered from industrial decline and flight to the suburbs. For decades, it has struggled to find a way to reinvent its downtown—a beautifully sited urban core overlooking a mighty river. Promised investments from shimmering glass towers to buzzing festival marketplaces have made inroads over the years, yet ultimately failed. Hope for a vibrant downtown grew thin.
Today, there is a new energy in Toledo, and it stems from a different kind of civic anchor: a not-for-profit healthcare provider, ProMedica, whose CEO Randy Oostra is on a mission to bolster Toledo’s health. Yes, he’s looking at citizens’ health, but also at community health in a holistic sense. The latest proof of this commitment recently opened: ProMedica Headquarters, a new anchor for Toledo’s waterfront.
In its move from many locations scattered across the suburbs to a single campus downtown, ProMedica aims to do what previous projects could not: bring downtown Toledo to life.
Designed by HKS, ProMedica Headquarters is an adaptive re-use of two buildings: an historic, Daniel Burnham-designed steam plant as well as a Brutalist junction building, both of which are sited adjacent to Promenade Park on the waterfront.
Unlike other riverfront buildings, the headquarters embraces its public presence. This corporate HQ doesn’t gate itself off; but rather, encourages Toledoans to amble through its riverfront campus, enjoy a concert on the lawn, grab some apples at a farmer’s market. ProMedica takes its role as an urban anchor very seriously, and they are seriously looking to improve Toledo’s civic health.
HKS’ design for ProMedica Headquarters is a catalyst in the transformation of downtown Toledo, connecting employees and the community to the riverfront, drawn by a design that celebrates its site and city.
Adjacent to the headquarters, the newly updated Promenade Park, part of the award-winning master plan for the Toledo waterfront, includes new landscaping, a variety of spaces to host public concerts and festivals, and engaging new public art installations.
A new parking garage dedicated to headquarters employees on the south side of the park features retail space on its Summit Street façade, and a large screen for public film screenings or concert projections on its north facade.
It’s important to note that this new headquarters is not a newly-constructed building, but an adaptive re-use of two architecturally significant buildings. ProMedica isn’t re-inventing Toledo; they’re celebrating what is unique about this city, this site, this community. The first building ProMedica adapted is an historic steam plant, constructed in 1896 under the direction of renowned architect Daniel Burnham, chief architect of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. The building served as a power plant until 1930, when it was converted to a steam plant to supply steam heat to downtown buildings. It was shuttered in 1985. The second building, now known as the junction building, was built in 1981 to serve as the headquarters of the Toledo Trust Company. The building was part of a 1970s plan to revitalize the downtown area, which like many others over the years, didn’t quite take hold. Today, it may.
From Fifth Third Field to the Valentine Theater, the Toledo Museum of Art to Promenade Park, Toledo presents a vision for what could become the next story of Rustbelt reinvention. ProMedica’s bold moves solidify this new direction.