ELYRIA — Economic and infrastructure development successes drove the city in 2018, Mayor Holly Brinda said Tuesday, while promising more to come for businesses, consumers and residents.
Delivering her seventh State of the City Address to a packed room at Wesleyan Village on West Avenue, Brinda touted the $400 million in public and private investment currently helping the city. That includes private investment in historic downtown buildings; the Chestnut Commons retail development on the city’s east side and increased investment in new businesses at the Midway Mall complex.
And more is coming, Brinda teased, especially to the Chestnut Commons area. Another mixed-use development there is expected to pump an additional $100 million into the city, she said, adding that she is “not at liberty to say” exactly what that would include.
With Gulf Road now open to traffic, infrastructure improvements continue after $70 million worth in 2018, Brinda said. The East Side Relief Sewer project is continuing into the third part of its first phase to prevent flooding and comply with federal EPA rules.
“It’s going to be epic, it’s going to be necessary, it’s going to be required,” Brinda said.
Saying 15 residential streets were improved or resurfaced in 2018, Brinda asked for patience with ongoing street repairs, potholes and paving. The orange barrels motorists encounter are signs that the work is being done, and she said she hoped the city could resurface all 500 of its residential streets.
The city’s road diet for 2019 streets still is being worked out, with City Council members sending suggestions to the City Engineer’s Office, though Brinda noted that improvements to major corridors including East Avenue, Gulf Road, Cleveland Street and state Route 57 were completed last year.
“I apologize in advance for everything that’s about to happen to you,” she added as a note for motorists, which prompted laughter from the crowd.
Income tax collections were up more than 7 percent in 2018, doubling the city’s general fund carryover to more than $3.35 million, Brinda said.
She also thanked and praised the city’s partners: Elyria Schools for its new stadium complex and the new school buildings, and awarded the fifth-annual Key to the City to the Elyria Public Library System, which is building a new Central Library at the corner of Broad Street and East Avenue downtown.
Library Board President Gerald Crum and Library Director Lyn Crouse thanked Brinda for the award.
“It’s been a real pleasure to work with the city and the Community Improvement Corporation on this project,” Crouse said.
Brinda added that demolition of the buildings standing on the footprint of the future library should begin “very shortly.”
“How many cities can say so much public investment is going on in their city?” she asked.
For private investment, last year saw the opening of Discount Fashion Warehouse and Johnny K’s Powersports at Midway Mall. The coming months there will be the addition of Uncle Bo’s Slow-n-Low BBQ, which will “open shortly,” Brinda promised.
With malls across the U.S. closing due to the proliferation of online shopping and “big box” stores, Brinda said the city is working with the Namdar Realty Group on the mall property’s future. Businesses there, she said, need a more “regional audience” while shops downtown should retain a local, small-business feel.
“What we really need to do is flip the mall’s model inside out,” she said, providing more of a walking, outdoor pedestrian mall atmosphere instead of the classic indoor mall.
Work on the city’s 360 acres of parks, including new spray parks; gym floors at recreation centers; streetscape planters, light poles and LED streetlights also were touched upon. Aesthetically, a new fountain is coming this year for Ely Square, thanks to private philanthropy kicked off during the city’s bicentennial celebration, Brinda announced.
She said the square has had a fountain in it for much of the city’s 202-year history, and “we think it deserves” a proper one.
Tuesday’s event was co-sponsored by the Lorain County Chamber of Commerce and Elyria Rotary.
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