By Sue Botos
City officials have called a proposal for signage to unite the recently renovated Old Detroit area, Linda Street and connecting portions of Detroit Road the “icing on the cake.” They feel this will be the final ingredient for what has been dubbed Downtown River, a neighborhood of unique shops and restaurants. But since a request for a $150,000 Cuyahoga County Community Development Block Grant to fund the project has been turned down for a second time, it will be up to the city and local business owners to come up with a recipe to make it happen.
“This is unfortunate and very disappointing, but property owners are looking at alternatives,” Mayor Pam Bobst recently commented. An initial request for the sign project was rejected in July. The planned series of eight signs will feature a rendering of the old Detroit Bridge and the words “Downtown River,” and are expected to be placed at strategic locations along Detroit Road and side streets. Vintage light poles may also be added during a later phase of the project.
Given the economic climate, Bobst said that county officials have indicated the emphasis for the grants has been trending toward street, sewer and other infrastructure work. “In the past, these grants have funded parks and streetscape projects, but now that has changed,” she noted.
In the past, the city has been extremely successful in securing grants. According to Bobst, similar funds were used on such projects as pedestrian safety features on Lake Road, and last year’s Old Detroit Road streetscaping project.
The renovation boom in the area began with Linda Street a few years ago, which met the criteria for a “target improvement zone,” partially based on income generated by an area. In partnership with the Cleveland Division of Water, for improvements to the waterlines, a $350,000 grant was requested. It was initially denied by one point after the county overlooked a city meeting held with landlords and tenants. Once the error was pointed out, the funds were OK’d.
No scoring sheets were used this time, and Bobst said that county Councilman David Greenspan had indicated the main priority for the grants is infrastructure work. Councilman at Large David Furry remarked, “A hundred and fifty thousand dollars won’t do much for sewer work.”
Bobst said that county representatives have offered to meet with her and other administrators to discuss the balance between funding of infrastructure projects and something she said will “bring together a key funded project on Detroit.”
Bill Brink, general manager of Beachcliff Market Square on Detroit Road, agreed that too much work has already been done to not complete the project. He indicated that many business owners in the area would be agreeable to a public-private partnership to cover funding.
“We are disappointed to hear that the grant was rejected. I believe that most of the merchants in Downtown River see the benefits of the project, and we will try to do whatever we can to assist the city in making this a reality,” Brink stated.