August 2, 2014

Elyria
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Council gets peek at Elyria 2015 plan

ELYRIA — A park near Midway Mall.
Extending the city’s river walk into downtown.
Stretching the downtown commercial area toward EMH Regional Medical Center.
The ideas all were part of a preview presented Monday to the City Council of the massive planning project known as Elyria 2015, which is designed to provide a roadmap for Elyria’s leaders on where the city should be headed.
Terry Schwarz, a senior planner for Kent State University’s Urban Design Center, gave a glimpse of the center’s effort.
She said it will focus on physical changes that could enhance the city.
The center’s work will be turned in to the city later this summer.
Schwarz gave a brief outline to improve the area around Midway Mall, including an already-in-the-works plan to remove the bridges that cross state Route 57 and replace them with two intersections. It also includes adding a park north of the mall along Route 57 that could be the center of the commercial area with signs directing customers to the nearby stores.
“The plan is to create a more centralized shopping center, rather than several small groups of commercial centers,” Schwarz said.
Downtown, Schwarz said the center will recommend creating lengthening the river walk to stretch it along Black River, extending the commercial spaces on Broad Street to make the hospital a part of downtown and improving parking by adding lots and possibly, a parking deck, along Second Street, she said.
The preview, however, did not include explanations of how or when the projects could be completed or how they would be funded, nor was it supposed to.
Rather, issues of how to afford the proposed changes, policy issues on how to bring in new businesses and plans to fix any infrastructure problems are being handled by Youngstown State University’s Center for Urban and Regional Planning, which also is working on the 2015 project.
The two consultants are splicing the two plans together to bring a cohesive document to the city later this summer. Once that plan is turned in, officials from the city and from the 2015 committees will get to work on prioritizing the projects.
Councilman Garry Gibbs, R-3rd Ward, said it’s hard to get a sense of the plan with just the snippets presented.
“We saw plans for Midway Mall, downtown and the parks, but there is more to the plan than that,” Gibbs said after the meeting. “Once everything is laid out in front of us, then we can come up with how to prioritize it and that will happen later this year.”
Councilman Tom Callahan, D-at large, said he also wanted to see the whole plan put together, rather than just the urban planning side.
“The consultants are doing their job and it’s not a bad thing for the city to have a plan like this to attract new business and residents, but this is a work in progress and at this point, we are focusing on the infrastructure needs the city has,” Callahan said. “There is going to be a point in time where we are going to have to determine what our needs are versus what are wants are, and that will be determined by what the residents want and what we can afford.”
Contact Joe Medici at 329-7152 or jmedici@chroniclet.com.