A recent study completed so the city can continue to receive federal Community Development Block Grant dollars may offer hope for vacant storefronts.
Ten years ago, Elyria’s Central Business District, defined by the area downtown between the two branches of the Black River, showed blight in 83 percent of the district.
The new survey results show blight affects 52 percent of the area. The label of blight is related to the exterior condition of all properties, public rights-of-way and other sites.
“It’s not the only thing we are using to gauge how the downtown has changed, but it is a solid benchmark,” Mayor Holly Brinda said. “We can see where we were 10 years ago and where we are today. It appears as if the CDBG funds invested in the area are making a difference.”
The study took place from August 2012 to August 2013. During that time, city code enforcement inspectors from the Building Department inspected all the houses and buildings in the district as well as streets, alleys, driveways, curbs, gutters, sidewalks, parking lots and other elements.
Inspectors found that of 290 buildings in the study area, 52 percent were deteriorating.
The public infrastructure was likewise deteriorating, and several areas were littered by old tires and debris.
CDBG funds have been used in a variety of ways in the district, from making funds available for small loans to downtown business to redoing sidewalks and curbs and helping homeowners make repairs.
Angela Byington, the city’s director of community development, said one of the goals of the federal program administered through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is to improve blighted areas so much, the CDBG funds are no longer needed.
“In the best-case scenario, in the next 10 years the area won’t be eligible for funds under that designation,” she said.
The cutoff point is 25 percent of an area, according to CDBG guidelines.
Still, Brinda said there is still a lot of work to be done. “We are nowhere near where we want to be,” she said.
City Council members said the takeaway from the study is the success of the CDBG program.
“We have done a lot of good with the funds overall and I hope it continues,” said Councilman Jack Baird, R-at large.
Other findings in the study include asphalt streets in poor condition; broken, cracked or depressed sidewalks, curbs and gutters; poor or no lighting in various alleys; and railroad underpasses with poor lighting and in need of repair work due to rust, deterioration, broken concrete and poor drainage.
There are also a number of vacant lots in the area, but the study noted that many are the result of residential and commercial buildings that were razed by the city in the last year.