By Kevin Kelley
Planning has already begun for a streetscape project that city officials hope will revitalize Lorain Road in the western end of the city.
As announced publicly by Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald May 29, Fairview Park has been awarded a $150,000 Community Development Block Grant, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and awarded by the county.
The grant will pay for the purchase and installation of plant boxes, benches, boulevard banners and other signage throughout the project area, which runs from West 223rd Street west to the border with North Olmsted. Matt Hrubey, the development administrator in the city’s Economic Development Department working on the project, said it should be completed by the end of July.
The city will contribute $8,500 to pay for streetscaping on the south side of Lorain Road between West 223rd and West 225th streets because that area, in front of the Lawn Village Apartments, is not eligible for the federal funding.
In the grant application, city officials said the entire community would benefit from the project. The goal, they said, is to reinvigorate the mixed-use commercial district and reduce storefront vacancies. This will provide residents with local businesses that provide necessary services; the businesses, in turn, will contribute to the tax base and draw customers from outside the city.
At the May 29 announcement at the North Olmsted Senior Center, FitzGerald said 10 Community Development Block Grants totaling $1.34 million will help improve the quality of life and economic vitality of local communities.
FitzGerald, who is a candidate in the 2014 race for governor, gave special mention to the Fairview Park project.
“Those streetscape projects are so important because local businesses, once they see the streetscape is improving, then start putting their own dollars into it,” the former Lakewood mayor said. “That’s an important point to note, because it’s not just the money we’re putting in. By improving the physical surroundings, other people end up making private investment.”
The city’s grant application clearly states private investment is a goal of the project.
“The city will also attempt to use the streetscape to catalyze private investment in the project area,” the application states. “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 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.
In 2007, Environmental Design Group, then known as the Floyd Browne Group, developed a more extensive streetscape plan for the western end of Lorain Road. Although the city received a grant to proceed with the plan, cumbersome government regulations involved with implementation led the city to drop the project due to the additional anticipated expenses, city officials said.