Work continues on transforming downtown Lorain into recreation hub

By Kelsey Leyva, The Morning Journal

Rick Novak, executive director of the Lorain Port Authority, discusses the 2016 Rockin’ on the River summer lineup March 4 during the monthly breakfast meeting of the Lorain Growth Corp.’s Downtown Consortium at the Lorain Palace Theatre. Jim Long, president of the Lorain Growth Corporation, in the background.Eric Bonzar —The Morning Journal

Transforming downtown Lorain into a recreation hub is underway and representatives from local organizations driving the movement shared plans and ideas on how to continue the momentum.

Jim Long, president of the Lorain Growth Corporation, and Rick Novak, executive director of the Lorain Port Authority, spoke March 4 at the monthly breakfast meeting of the Lorain Growth Corporation’s Downtown Consortium at the Lorain Palace Theatre.

The men discussed projects going on downtown as well as events scheduled this summer.

Long talked about the street scape project that recently started downtown with the installation of the new water lines from 10th Street through West Erie Avenue.

Due to budget constraints, Long said the project will be completed in phases and work is expected to continue into 2017.

The plans for the revamped downtown calls for repaving, wider sidewalks, new street lights, new traffic controls, parking signs, cameras and a two-lane highway.

When complete, Long said the project is anticipated to cost more than $2 million.

With an updated downtown, Long and Novak both hope it will attract business owners to set up shop in one of the vacant buildings on Broadway.

Long said interest has definitely increased recently, but not as quickly as he would like.

“The longer period of time they sit vacant and aren’t kept up to date, the more of an investment someone has to make and that’s not an attraction,” he said, adding that there’s so much potential for the downtown district.”I think this year is the beginning of a new beginning for Lorain.”

Novak shared the same sentiments and discussed a program available through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In 2011, the Port Authority applied for and received a $400,000 grant to be used for the assessment of brownfields in Lorain.

According to the U.S. EPA, a brownfield is the “real property, the expansion, redevelopment or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contamination.”

The Port Authority plans to use the money to access the brownfields and complete studies on them so they can be cleaned up for new business to grow, Novak said.

He also was eager to discuss the expanded lineup of this year’s Rockin’ on the River summer weekly concert series. Bob Earley is the promoter of Rockin’ on the River.

Novak said the 2016 schedule includes 20 performances by bands such as Wish You Were Here, a Pink Floyd tribute band, and Who’s Bad, a Michael Jackson tribute band. The goal is to find acts that will transcend across all generations, he said.

“It’s created a lot of energy in the community,” Novak said, adding that he’s noticed a revitalized sense of pride in Lorain residents. “We have a lot of good things that are happening here.”

Other activities planned around Black River Landing this summer include kayak rentals and nature tours. Novak said the Port Authority is continuing to work with Jet Express and will explore the possibility of a water taxi if the need presents itself.

Novak also expects the Cabela’s National Walleye Tour coming to Lorain in June will be a big boost for the local economy. He predicts this year will generate about $750,000 for Lorain County businesses and if next year expands as he expects, the tournament could bring in $2 million to the region.

“We need to continue working together,” he said. “We’re coming back, and I think it’s going to come back stronger because of the opportunities we have.”

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