By Sue Botos
City officials have decided that unique signage would be the perfect thread to tie together the recently renovated Old Detroit area with Linda Street and connecting portions of Detroit Road. While the request for $150,000 in Cuyahoga County Community Block Grant Funds for the project has been turned down by the county, past experience has taught administrators that sometimes the second time is the charm.
A similar request for $350,000 in funds for the Linda Street renovation work, currently under way, was rejected when a requirement that the city had fulfilled was overlooked. The appeal was granted when resubmitted.
“Rocky River has been extremely successful in securing grants in the past,” commented Mayor Pam Bobst at last week’s public hearing for the discussion of the grant and the improvements to the area dubbed Downtown River. She said that similar grants have funded such projects as the replication of the historic stone wall and pedestrian safety features on Lake Road and last year’s Old Detroit Road streetscape.
“We want to honor our investments and spur on more,” she added, pointing out that the improvements have inspired local business people like John Spielberger, who has purchased three buildings on Old Detroit and is in the process of restoring them. She added that business owners have also formed a merchants association for the shopping and dining destination.
Bobst recalled that the original idea for improvements, especially for Linda Street, was brought to her attention by former economic and community development Director Kory Koran. She said he pointed out that the area qualified for Community Development Block Grant funding by meeting the criteria for a “target improvement zone,” which is partially based on the income generated by an area.
As a result, the $350,000 grant was requested, in partnership with the Cleveland Division of Water, for the improvement of waterlines. However, the proposal was rejected by one point after the county overlooked a required meeting that Koran held with city landlords and tenants. Once this error was pointed out, the funds were OK’d.
“We’re really seeing the fruits of our efforts,” Bobst said, pointing out that Whole Foods, which is set to begin construction next year, was attracted to the Detroit Road area in part because of the work taking place.
Bobst spoke with personnel in the county Department of Development, who suggested that it might be helpful to show the impact of the project on the region, not solely Rocky River, when it comes to getting the fund request “over the bar.”
According to Bobst, the sign project has been well-received by business owners. She said that eight signs with a motif representing the old Detroit Bridge and proclaiming the area Downtown River are planned to be placed at strategic locations on Detroit Road and nearby streets. Vintage light poles are in the plans, but are not part of this phase.
“We hope we will prevail,” said Bobst. She said that the county’s decision should be received by September and that Terrace Construction, which will be overseeing the project, has been consulted. It is hoped the company will hold the cost to the original estimate. “Then we could hit the ground running once we find out in September,” Bobst said.