Saving Downtown: Why Does It Look Like It Does?

As I drive around the County, I become more and more frustrated. I walk around the downtown areas of the cities that surround Lorain, and I become sad. Do you know why? Walk with me, will you?

Let’s take a look at a few buildings in Norwalk.


Now look at Elyria.

I hope your legs aren’t tired yet.

 Here’s Amherst.



I walked Vermilion’s downtown last night with my kids.




I don’t even want to show you what we’ve got on Broadway, but we all need a collective slap in the face.



Was my sample of downtown Lorain fair? Nope, not by a longshot. Because we’ve got the Duane Building, Art Oehlke’s The 530 Shop, and a number of other beautiful buildings. But. BUT. We still have structures like I pictured above.

I have written certain people in our City. People who have intimate knowledge of programs that might be available. I have asked what can be done to spur some improvement along Broadway. What could motivate or help some of these building owners to improve their properties?

I’ve received no replies, no answers.


If this City is going to bring itself back, besides improving the Housing and Infrastructure, it needs to give a big fat booster shot to its downtown area. Specifically Broadway from West Erie all the way to, at least, the West 14th Street area. We need facelifts and we need businesses in these properties, not buildings used to store stuff.

What can the City do? What can the organizations that work with the City do?

What can City Council do to fit the Design Review Board with some teeth, and help it coordinate things with the Building Department, so that things look a little, no, A LOT better along Broadway?

Someone Please Tell Me WHY Our Downtown Looks Like It Does?!


22 thoughts on “Saving Downtown: Why Does It Look Like It Does?

  1. Downtown Lorain does everything that its current residents create a demand for.

    There are two paths by which the “Downtown Death Syndrome” can be resolved. The first path says things are never gonna get better because nothing will ever change in Lorain (meanwhile waving the I Love Lorain Flag) tear down what is not in use and landscape the gaps. The second path says that we are going to make Lorain as marketable as possible following the advice of people that do that sort of thing, let the world know that there is tremendous potential for a great life and future in a brand new transformed Lorain Ohio, meanwhile waving the I Love Lorain Flag. Lets see how many new businesses, jobs and families we can bring to town to keep the demand growing.

    This does not happen over night and it takes a lot of blood, sweat tears, money and a plan, but I have seen places do it. It could happen here and folks are working on the cleanup and straighten out part. The next question is what can we do to keep the ball rolling and the momentum up there … has anyone or group of anyones asked what progress is being made on the Staubach proposals ????

    I get so frustrated because what currently brings people to Lorain is isolated from downtown Lorain. Upwards of 300,000 visitors per year hit the Black River Landing and leave never seeing Broadway … as a matter of fact they can’t wait to get out of town … I think you can see where I am going with this because the silly little streetcar that works in 25 other cities and is proposed for almost one hundred more can do this with great effect.

  2. During a meeting about our downtown sponsored by Mainstreet Lorain it was mentioned by Rick Novak of the Port Authority what Staubach was telling us. I believe you were there also Dennis.

    Staubach AGAIN mentioned at City Hall what our city had to do to be able to attract “respectable” developers. They were the ones that coined the phrase about only being to attract “BOTTOM FEEDERS” unless certain issues and problems were addressed.

    While someone may be working on the issues and problems, not a one of them have been announced to the public and may be LONG TERM to implement.

    The “PLAN” or BLUEPRINT of what our downtown COULD BECOME would be helpful at the least, a requirement by anyone with money before they would invest THEIR MONEY.

    I like the trolley idea, but I believe that our city needs more than a trolley and I suspect that most investors would feel the same way. Everything that happens in our city seems to be done by the seats of their pants. Now would be the BEST TIME to develop a plan because the palette is almost blank and empty structures may outnumber the occupied ones. That is, unless, we are waiting for the rest of them to empty.

    I disagree with Henrey where we need to start the redevelopment. I think we should start in the HEART of our City, 21st and Broadway to the steel plant. Everything else could “build off of the seeds that are planted there. The waterfront property I believe is severly “hindered” by the fact there is no good way to get to it along with what one has to drive by to get there anyways.

    Secondly, fish do not have disposable income, wait, I don’t think they have any income to spend at any new store or restraint. While there may not be much disposable income in the heart of our city, traffic counts are good and it is easy to get too.

    I may not be the most qualified person to talk about development, BUT I HAVE BEEN SOLD “SO FAR” by folks that know a hell of a lot more than me.

  3. Brian,

    We can start ANYWHERE, as long as we start SOMEWHERE. I only wanted to see West Erie to 14th because those properties would be the “simplest” to save, and they would be the closest to whatever gets developed downtown. Most of those buildings, while probably needing extensive interior work, as you mentioned previously, have what looks to be structurally sound facades. So, at the very LEAST, we can have some vacant properties that look good.

    Everywhere I’ve been: Norwalk, Vermilion, Elyria, (maybe Amherst) had at least ONE vacant store/business, but it was in such a condition that a new tenant just had TO MOVE IN AND THROW OPEN THE DOORS.

    I’m hoping to hear from those somebodies what’s available money-wise for downtown businesses to utilize to rehab their properties. Someone ‘high up’ in the City Admin told me recently there were loans available to these proprietors. I’ll have to find out if they can use these loans for one specific thing, or what. I’ll drop one of the folks at ComDev a note tonight to see if they do anything like this.

    I’ll let ya know.

  4. There are indeed loans from the City of Lorain available for those interested in locating downtown. Ask Carl Nielsen why he spent all his own money renovating his facade rather than using city money.

  5. Henrey,
    There are two types of money, loans, and grants.

    The problem is that most of the property owners will not obligate themselves to borrow money to fix upo the outsides because they can’t get any income from the insides.

    There is money to borrow for “facade improvements”, but the reasoning that I mentioned before creates the issue.

    As far as the reasoning that the city could FORCE them to fix up their properties is somewhat of a moot point at this time because how can the city demand that a business fix up their property when the city owns many properties that are bad or in worse shape?

  6. Henrey,
    You mentioned that “We can start ANYWHERE, as long as we start SOMEWHERE. The KEY WORD being WE. Are “We” going to help someone by investing in “their” property or are “we” going to tell them they have to because “we” want them to?

    This is why I keep saying “we” need a master land use plan along with a comprehensive traffic plan. At least “everyone” would know where they stand and “we” could all work together.

  7. If you are out one-tanking along the side roads this summer check out the downtowns of Woodville (big speed tranp), Ashland, Genoa, Big ole Elmore, Bowling Green, Gibsonburg and see how the small cities hve cleaned up their downtowns … like Norwalk these places never experienced the severe commercial contraction that Lorain did (In the 20th century).
    Compare Mansfield (big time job loss) to Lorain …they rebuilt their downtown around Richland Carrousel Park … they removed a lot of empty buildings but left a lot of sad looking homes.

    Maybe if you aren’t going grow your city it’s time to consider cleaning and greening ..thinning down to what can be supported ?

  8. I got this from Gary Fischer of Arkinetics and Lorain’s Design Review Board:

    “The city has revolving loans available for storefront renovation. There is also an architectural assistance program to offset $300.00 of services.”

    So, there is monetary help available. Now, to get the requirements in place so that these proprietors can/will take advantage of them.

    Baby steps, folks. Baby steps.

  9. Did anyone notice the cleanup around the former gelpack building ?? I have to admit I was focused on the mess across the street.

  10. They must have not run into any problems with that job, it went pretty quick. Thanks for the post

    Might I suggest that the folks interested in this project start attending Mike’s Lorain Growth Corp. meetings and try out your ideas there.

    There is also the South Lorain Group to meet with.


  11. Kelly
    Yes I am aware of the name change … I had to do a whole bunch of presentations over.

    I think it would be helpful if residents attended these meetings to understand and support their local business people .. people who have invested in Lorain and want to make Lorain work.

    Right now it seems like there are more members of the Death Squad then Life Squad and it would be nice to change the numbers and improve the odds of something good happening.

  12. One of the problems that our city faces is that to “market ourselves” to outsiders, unless the CONDITIONS THAT HAVE BEEN IGNORED FOR MANY YEARS ARE TAKEN CARE OF OR AT LEAST ADDRESSED, STAUBACH SAID IT “WE WILL ONLY ATTRACT BOTTOM FEEDERS”.

    Our city is NOT READY to market itself because it has done NONE OF THE THINGS WE WERE TOLD WE HAVE TO DO. Now I am sure that some discussions have taken place, unless there is a PLAN, that stupid four letter word, all we are going to get is “BOTTOM FEEDERS” if we market.

    As much as it has been discussed lately about the police, are there similar issues within other departments? I believe that the residents are tired of throwing money at our city without a real plan, just look at our jail. That’s right, we have NO JAIL.

    How about the 1/4 percent levy for more police officers? Look what that has got us?

    The best thing that has happened in our city in recent years has been the Metro Parks coming in and SAVING LAKEVIEW PARK. They have a plan!!!!!

  13. Brian
    I am afraid that it will take a lot more then a PLAN to sell Lorain. Lorain has reputation to overcome. I watched developers (certainly not bottom feeders, you can visit their projects in both Cleveland and Toledo) get turned off and away, I watched projects die due to lack of interest. I just took “ball park” and “village” off my presentations because they are BEING BUILT elsewhwere. The proposals to make St Joes part of LCCC, huh. Boat storage down by the docks ….dumb (read todays journal). The blowup over the limestone facility really made lorain look sharp. Meanwhile all around the sump, development is happening without a PLAN.

    Brian, how do you know nothing is being done about the Staubach proposals ?

  14. Dennis,

    I never said nothing is being done, in fact I SAID “While someone may be working on the issues and problems, not a one of them have been announced to the public and may be LONG TERM to implement.”

    In fact, I’ll let you have this discussion all to yourself as it “appears to me” that you have a beef with me and I must not be explaining my points of view sufficiently.

  15. Brian,
    I do not have a beef with you, but there are a lot of folks out there that have the same opinions and I try to answer the group through you. Lets get all this stuff out on the table to find the best answers. Convince me I should stay with Lorain!

    Dennis …don’t knock, but guide those that have the same goal!

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