ALONG THE WAY: Cleveland Road a major Ravenna project

By David Dix | R-C publisher Published:

Some good news for economic development in the city of Ravenna is that the improvements on Cleveland Road, a northwest gateway to the city, are moving forward.

I became curious about this project after reading Diane Smith's recent story because Mayor Joe Bica, now in the third of his four-year elected term, has been touting it as a major city initiative since his appointment as mayor five years ago.

From what I learned Thursday and Friday, the Cleveland Road improvement project appears to be every bit of what Mayor Bica has said it would be. This is a major improvement project and a nice step in the right direction for the city of Ravenna.

Cleveland Road, the mayor said, will be widened by 70 percent from Highland Avenue to the city limits just past Oakwood Street and near McElrath Park. The widening will include sidewalk replacement, the relocation of utility lines, and the accommodation of bicycle paths from The Portage Hike and Bike Trail to Highland Avenue. That will facilitate access to the downtown for bicyclers and better access to the trail for those in the city who enjoy bicycling.

Curbing will be added and include ramps and aprons to minimize the decrease in the amount of pavement. Green space will be created with the addition of a tree lawn with grass and trees along the corridor.

Environmentally designed bio-swales will be built that group trees and plant materials and enable the slow absorption of storm water run-off that might otherwise diminish the appeal of properties along the corridor. The storm sewer system will be improved, too.

Outside grants integral

If I understand the numbers, Ravenna City Engineer Bob Finney and Ravenna Economic Development Director Kerry Macomber have done a good job securing outside grant money for the upgrade, which has been budgeted at approximately $750,000.

A grant applied for by Finney through AMATS for the resurfacing totaling $223,200 has been approved. The County, which dispenses certain grants obtained from the state and federal governments, has awarded a Critical Infrastructure Grant of $300,000 for the project. NDS (Neighborhood Development Services) helped secure these grants through the Portage County Community Development Block funds. Some of these are pass-through dollars from the Ohio Development Service Agency.

The city's Revolving Loan Fund, its capital budget for resurfacing roads and the city's storm water fund have together enabled a set-aside of $291,800 for storm sewer improvements and paving.

Two sites remediated

In addition to Cleveland Road improvements, the city, partnering with Family & Community Services, received more than $400,000 from the state of Ohio and the Portage County commissioners to remediate and redevelop the White Rubber property. This has enabled the demolition of the factory that for decades produced protective rubber gloves for those who work the long-lines of the nation's utility companies.

Mayor Bica says a developer is ready to construct on the White Rubber site, a commercial industrial complex of 2,000-square-foot units sharing a common loading dock area with a total of 8 units or 16,000 square feet ready to rent to small businesses and manufacturers.

To the south of the White Rubber property, the city is working with Portage County, which is responsible for removing any hazardous wastes that may contaminate the 3.5 acres that for years was home for the Portage County engineer. The property is being temporarily held by Family & Community Services because of the reluctance by city council to accept potentially contaminated land, but once remediated it will give the city an excellent site for a prospective business or industry.

Completion in 2015

The Cleveland Road improvements, the mayor said, are targeted for completion next year. The city engineer's office is already engaged in the planning. Construction will begin next spring.

Besides attracting new business and improving the property values of those currently on Cleveland Road, a likely outcome could be more traffic coming to the downtown for the services it offers.

That was a consequence of Cleveland Road's existence when it served as S.R. 14 prior to the construction of the bypass that took traffic around Ravenna. In those days, when S.R. 14 was an important connector of Youngstown and Cleveland, the traffic that passed through Ravenna's downtown was high volume and it caused the inconvenience of congestion while also supporting local businesses as those passing through might stop to buy lunch or do some shopping.

Although the bypass will continue to channel most of the traffic around the city's northern perimeter, the improvement of Cleveland Road will certainly make it more inviting. Calling Cleveland Road a "Gateway to Ravenna" from the northwest, Mayor Bica points to the aesthetics of the project and says it will improve the quality of life in the neighborhood, attract businesses and provide safer transportation for residents.

The project, he said, has the potential for significant economic impact for Ravenna and Portage County over the long run.

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