By Kevin Kelley
Vacant storefronts along Lorain Road and the need for additional municipal revenue are two problems Fairview Park has faced for several years. City leaders hope an upcoming workshop will provide ideas for solving both problems.
A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program called Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities approved Fairview Park’s application for the two-day workshop. The program offers technical assistance on redevelopment.
In Fairview Park’s case, the focus will be on “infill development,” an urban planning term that refers to redevelopment in areas with existing infrastructure.
Many of Fairview Park’s storefronts along Lorain Road date to around the 1950s and lack the square footage and parking space today’s large national retail chains demand. Modern retail centers, such as Great Northern Mall or Westgate Shopping Center, are located close by and provide those amenities. That leaves mostly smaller retailers and mom-and-pop businesses as the likely occupants of the storefronts. The question is are there enough such businesses for the supply of retail space and do they have the wherewithal to be successful over the long term?
Mike Callahan of Renaissance Planning, the urban planning firm serving as the EPA’s consultant, will be in charge of the two-day workshop.
The workshop starts Tuesday when Fairview Park officials will take Callahan and other consultants on a tour of the suburb.
Monica Jordan, Fairview Park’s community development planner, said the tour will focus on Lorain Road and the suburb’s proximity to the Cleveland Metroparks.
In preparation for the workshop, Fairview Park officials completed a report for the consultants that included information about demographics, the amount of available retail space and local assets, Jordan said.
Jordan said the public’s perception of Lorain Road as the downtown area of the community is of particular importance to city leaders.
A public meeting is a big part of the workshop. The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 18, in the Oak Room of the Gemini Recreation Center, 21225 Lorain Road.
Callahan told West Life he plans to discuss current infill development trends before discussing specific challenges and opportunities in Fairview Park.
Callahan, who holds a master’s degree in city and regional planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said he hopes for a large turnout at the meeting, adding that public input is important to the process.
The workshop continues on Wednesday when the planning consultants, city leaders and invited Fairview Park stakeholders will meet. Members of the Fairview Park Green Team, Forward Fairview Park, the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency and members of various civic organizations have been invited to that meeting, Jordan said.
Jordan, a Lakewood resident who was recently appointed to that city’s planning commission, said the workshop is a good opportunity for Fairview Park leaders to get an outside perspective on its redevelopment challenges.
“It’s definitely going to be a process that goes well beyond this workshop,” she said.