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Consultants want to turn previous plans into reality for Elyria economic development

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ELYRIA — Three consultants have proposed taking ideas from two previous economic development studies and turning them into potential projects they want to shop around to entice developers to the city’s Midway Mall and downtown business districts.

Monday night, City Council heard from the trio of Gregory Zucca, project manager for Great Lakes Economic Development Partners; Don Rerko, principal architect with Makovich & Pusti Architects Inc.; and Rustom Khouri, associate project manager for Carnegie Management and Development Corp. Their presentation centered on how to use the city’s Jumpstart Elyria Plan and Midway Mall Highest and Best Use Feasibility Study to develop projects that actually get developers interested in coming to Elyria.

The city is not contracted with the organizations, but Council heard their ideas from an informational standpoint. They were delivered during the portion of the meeting normally set aside for Mayor Holly Brinda to address Council.

Brinda said before the presentation that with improvement plans taking shape downtown and new ownership at Midway Mall, the city should start implementing some of the ideas proposed in the studies. She said she has brought a number of developers through the area in hopes of sparking interest and now its time for the city to take its efforts a step further.

“One of the things we know we need to do to advance these plans is develop some of these projects,” Brinda said.

Zucca said Elyria has a lot of great potential and the studies are a good stepping stone toward development. The Jumpstart Elyria Plan came out in 2015, funded with a grant from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, and Brinda commissioned the Midway Mall study in 2016.

“This is not asking for another study. This is moving forward and implementing the plans,” he said.

The scope of work would include creating architectural renderings of a downtown area — Broad Street between Washington Avenue and Kerstetter Way for example — creating renderings for a market-rate residential development at Midway Mall, creating the financial blueprint for the ideas complete with financing and construction costs, updating both studies with more recent information and soliciting interest from the development community to entice people to offer project proposals.

Zucca said Great Lakes is experienced at taking strategic ideas and putting them in the field to see if they can get traction.

Rerko said successful projects happen when public-private partnerships come together with a focus on projects that are unique to the area. Elyria has historic charm, beautiful waterfalls and two branches of the river that make it unique.

The process for turning the studies into projects will take time, but Elyria has to look at long-term sustainable growth, Khouri said.

“I feel if it’s done correctly and not rushed, this city can have growth that is sustainable for a long time,” he said.

Brinda said there are two projects the group could start working on immediately, including a mixed-use development that includes the Washington Avenue parking lot and a residential proposal of an area contiguous to Midway Mall.

“Hopefully, we can do this and come out of this process with someone willing to bid on projects,” she said.

Council has not decided if it wants to finance working with Great Lakes, Carnegie and Makovich & Pusti. No cost estimate was released.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.



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