LORAIN — The Lorain Better Block event gave community members a chance to experience expanded bike lanes, better crosswalks, improved seating and other attractions along Broadway between West Fifth and Eighth streets Saturday.
Organized by Kat Bray, health education specialist at Lorain County Public Health, the event was collaboration between the health department and the #LorainProud movement — a grassroots movement born out of discussions hosted by the Lorain Historical Society last year. An estimated 300-plus people attended Saturday’s event, braving scattered showers and thunder to experience the more than 40 different vendors and 30 “parklets” — mini parks in parking spaces along Broadway.
“Our goal was to engage residents and decision makers on envisioning how the street could be designed so it could be more accommodating to all road users,” Bray explained. “So thinking about who uses the street — there’s pedestrians, cyclists, people who take the bus — and we wanted to make it more inviting.”
It also was a chance for residents to give feedback on possible changes they’d like to see along Broadway or other areas in Lorain, including improved crosswalks or bike lanes, which are part of the city’s Active Transportation Plan.
“Better Block was kind of born out of the Active Transportation Plan that the city has been working on for the past year and a half, and the plan was completed this March,” Bray said. “(In) that plan are a variety of recommendations that the city of Lorain can implement to be a more walkable and bikeable city. So Better Block is an example of an engagement activity that temporarily illustrates better conditions for pedestrians and cyclists.”
While residents were giving feedback on the temporary changes, Bray said, they also told her it was the most people they had seen on Broadway in a long time.
“One thing that was great to hear is somebody said to me earlier that they had not seen Broadway filled with this many people in a really long time,” she said. “Some other feedback is that they love that it’s local Lorain residents participating as vendors and parklets.”
While Kathleen Torres has lived in Lorain for only about a year, she agrees that it was the most people she’s seen on the street since she’s been in the area.
“We moved to Lorain a year ago and when you drive down this road it’s kind of abandoned, and it looks like it used to be very vibrant and alive. It’s neat to see that people are trying to make it what it used to be,” Torres said. “And I hope that while we’re living here, my children get to grow up finding this street and this area alive again.”
Kimyata Hawthorne, owner of Hair Love Beauty Salon, 150 E. 10th St., was one of the vendors on hand hoping to help the downtown area come alive again.
“Hair Love Beauty is trying to help Lorain County and the community come back, downtown Lorain to come back and be up and coming,” Hawthorne said. “All other cities have (started) expanding and bringing new businesses down, it’s Lorain’s turn.”
And now, Lorain has some feedback it can use as it moves forward.
“We’re testing ideas here, we’re engaging stakeholders to see what they think all of this, and we’re building momentum for change,” Bray said. “One thing that we’ve kind of talked about is if you want to build a better city, start with a better block.”