By Sue Botos
In an effort to unify the Old Detroit neighborhood with similar areas of shopping and dining, the city is expected to apply for a $150,000 Cuyahoga County Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for streetscape work in the Detroit Road/Linda Street area.
A grant of $350,000 has already been secured for construction work on the street, which has been used as a detour during projects on Lake Road and Detroit Road. The Cleveland Division of Water will cover the cost of renovating water lines on the street due to its recent agreement with the city.
During a public hearing prior to last week’s City Council committee session, economic and development director Kory Koran reported that Rocky River has been successful in securing $850,000 in grants over the past 10 years.
He further explained that the CDBG fund began in 1974 with “entitlement” communities, or those with a population of over 50,000. He said that eventually, smaller communities such as Rocky River became eligible for CDBG money and were termed “urban county.”
Although CDBG funds all come from the same source, Koran said, entitlement communities like Lakewood receive the same amount each year directly from the federal government. In Lakewood’s case, Koran told West Life that this amounts to about $2 million each year, although due to federal cuts that number may be $80,000 less this year.
Cities within the “urban county” must apply for dollars from a pool of funds through Cuyahoga County.
Koran showed three pages of activities that could be considered for block grant money, but they all must meet the criteria of benefiting ”low to moderate income areas” (LMI) and eliminating blight in “improved target areas” (ITA).
Although terms like “blight” and “slum” conjure up less than attractive pictures, Koran said they are only terms when it comes to community development. He added that the LMI and ITA designations are based on the 2000 census, when Linda Street and the surrounding areas were less developed than they are now.
“This is a snapshot of the area circa 2000, and the county will not update it (to 2010 census figures). This is good news for Rocky River. Whether you disagree or agree is immaterial. This is how the county has decided to do it,” he stated.
Koran continued that the $350,000 will cover the “bare bones” of the Linda Street project, and that the additional $150,000 will go toward items like benches, litter containers, bike racks and signage.
This beautification work will assist business owners, some of whom are relying on the county’s storefront renovation program for improvements to the outside of their buildings. According to Koran, the specifications for the plan are constantly in flux. “This is a moving target. It’s changed five times in the last few months,” he stated.
The only drawback is the stipulation by the county that the funds be spent “quickly and efficiently.” But Koran said that the city has set a quick pace for the work, which will begin at the end of the month. “This jibes with our project extremely well. We need to get the project done by the end of September to get our reimbursement (from the county).”
Although having more than 50 communities in the urban county makes submitting for funds competitive, Koran said that because of the time constraints for this bid cycle, many won’t apply.
Mayor Pam Bobst said that the project will allow Linda Street to meld not only with Old Detroit, but nearby portions of Wooster Road and Lake Road. Although she did not reveal the design yet, Bobst said a total of eight signs with a “Downtown River” logo will be installed.
“This is important because it not only identifies Downtown River, but brings together all of the projects that Kory has submitted grants for,” Bobst stated.