By Kevin Kelley
Have you noticed them? On Aug. 13, several benches and jack pear trees were installed along the western section of Lorain Road as part of a streetscape program intended to make the area more attractive to both residents and businesses.
The streetscape program was made possible via a $150,000 Community Development Block Grant the city received earlier this year. The money comes from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and is awarded and administered by the Cuyahoga County Department of Development.
The Western Lorain Road Streetscape project builds on similar projects, completed in 2001 and 2002, that focused on Lorain Road in the eastern part of the city, from Wooster Road to West 223rd Street. Those projects were also funded by Community Development Block Grants.
Mayor Eileen Patton said that, following the practice under the earlier streetscape programs, the benches were placed facing the businesses, not Lorain Road. This was done, the mayor said, to ensure that pedestrians did not accidentally trip into the street.
“The second reason was when shoppers were exiting stores and businesses they had a place to sit and interact with other people, walkers and pedestrians,” Patton said. “Facing Lorain Road does not allow that.”
In the case of western Lorain Road, the jack pear trees were planted in large orange containers instead of the ground, as had been done along the eastern section of Lorain Road. The reason, explained Matthew Hrubey, the city’s economic development administrator, is that the grant included a stipulation that all work be completed by Sept. 30. Digging up the concrete to plant the trees in the ground would have taken longer than that, he said.
The jack pear tree, officially “Pyrus calleryana ‘Jaczam,’” was chosen because it does well in urban setting without growing too big, Hrubey said.
The streetscape program also includes the installation of several boulevard banners with the city’s logo.
In its grant application, city officials said the entire Fairview Park community will benefit from the project.
“The project area contributes to the community and economic vitality of Fairview Park; the former by offering residents various walkable businesses and services and community amenities, the latter by housing businesses that pay taxes and draw in visitors and shoppers from outside the city,” the application stated.
“We hope to use the streetscape to demonstrate the City’s prioritization of the west end, and convince local business and property owners to invest in their own buildings and properties,” the application continued.
Fairview Park’s block grant was one of 10, totaling $1.34 million, awarded to Cuyahoga County communities this year.