TOLEDO, Ohio — A short trip north on Summit Street from downtown will lead right to the historic Vistula neighborhood.
It's one of the oldest neighborhoods in Toledo, with its history and culture dating back to the 1830s.
But changes are on the way. Investors are spending millions of dollars in to revitalize it.
The project, Gateway at Lowertown, aims to bring more people, businesses and activities into the area.
"We think that this area is pretty underutilized and, historically, we can prove that," Gateway project partner Blake Underwood said. "So what we're trying to do is leverage the Vistula entertainment district that's been established."
Tech company Nemsys is moving its headquarters to the church on Locust Street, where Westminster CYO basketball was held for years.
The inside has been completely gutted and redone while maintaining its history and charm.
"This property is in what they call an opportunity zone, which has a lot of benefits from the federal government to spur development in areas like this that, historically, have been a little down-trodden," Gateway's real estate broker Rob Keleghan said.
The investors believe it's time for the neighborhood to shine.
They're spending upwards of $27 million to revitalize it and capitalize on the growth that's already happening downtown.
"It's going to take more than just moving a business down to this area to change the neighborhood," Underwood said. "And what we want to be is a great partner for the neighborhood and make sure not only my employees are safe but the other people who come down here to enjoy the area are safe as well."
Partners plan to bring new businesses, retailers, bars, and restaurants.
The idea is to create something unique to northwest Ohio; sort of like the Short North in Columbus.
Vistula residents are excited to see what the future of their neighborhood holds.
"It's a wonderful idea," longtime resident Lonnie Homan said. "I'm ready for restaurants and bars and candle companies and whatever else they bring in this neighborhood."
Changes won't be immediate, but residential properties will also get some renovations to make living in Vistula even more appealing.
"People are saying yes, I want to live here," Keleghan said. I can walk to work, it's five minutes downtown by foot. So, there's a lot of great things happening here."
Project leaders said the neighborhood is already rich in its people and past and they hope to move it toward the future.
"The opportunities are really limitless," Underwood said. "We have a lot of great buildings and structures that are ready to be rehabbed. They aren't tear-downs, so you can still maintain the character and feel that a lot of people are looking for now."
"I'm happy for this neighborhood to finally come alive and it's just wonderful," Homan said.
After renovations on the church are finished, the next phase of the project includes a food hall.
It's slated to have 15 restaurants and bars to give people in the area places to eat, drink and hang out with friends and family.
27 spaces that are in the process of rehabilitation will be available for businesses.
The partners said all of this work will begin happening within the year.