Saving Downtown: Bardstown, Kentucky

As time passes, and we all get greyer, Lorain’s downtown misses out on more opportunities to do something with itself. More and more money gets wasted on surveys that will gather dust in a corner or on the shelf at the local library, rather than time and money being spent to resurrect this town from the grave it continues to dig itself into. While people argue whether downtown or infrastructure should come first, so that the other will follow, absolutely nothing gets done, making the entire argument moot. Our Design Review Board merely gums itself on the statutes they’ve lain out years ago, because none of the guidelines are really adhered to or, dare I say, even evident to anyone today.

This past weekend, I was in Bardstown, Kentucky for the wedding of my cousin Kris and his fiancee, Julia. The ceremony was in the evening, so we had Saturday afternoon to check out the downtown.  I was both thrilled and saddened because I could shoot another downtown, and only dream about what could be back home. According to a friend in the know, some of the stores downtown remain vacant because the owners are looking for $1500 per month rent. That’s JUST rent. A prospective businessperson would still need to shell out for utilities and insurance and everything else. And since there’s so many empty shops along Broadway, there’s less and less draw to the area. (Maybe the City could cut some of these store owners a break on their taxes IF they dropped rent to something that a prospective new business could afford so they could actually try to improve Downtown’s chances again?)

Dreaming aside, as you can see from the photos below, not only was Bardstown a beautiful area, it was also very busy, with numerous restaurants and even a soda counter in a drugstore!! Remember those? Sundaes and sodas and malts and shakes, sandwiches and snacks. Parking was a little scarce, but a drive or two through would find a space just recently vacated.  Very hospitable shopkeepers, friendly faces, and polite people were everywhere. If only…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Oakwood Plaza – THIS is a Shopping Center??

At the request of Councilwoman-at-Large Anne Molnar, I went by Oakwood Plaza to take some pictures for a presentation she wants to give. After pulling into the parking lot, I can see why she’s been so upset about this plaza: There’s really nothing there!!

This is what I saw when I first pulled into the lot (click on photos for larger view):

I don’t get to this area of Lorain too often, but I believe that there used to be a grocery store in the middle of this complex.

Obviously, not anymore.

I did notice that the parking lot (the southern part of it) looked new.

As opposed to the northern end of the lot,

 which looks like a warzone.

The only store still doing business in the plaza is Family Dollar.

And that’s not saying much.

This used to be a thriving integral part of South Lorain. That was back when I was a young’un. And I just turned 42, so you know it’s been a while.

From the looks of this, the store behind the red dumpster was good enough to save, but those between it and Family Dollar were beyond repair.

 Anne Molnar will be giving a presentation about the Plaza at a meeting being held at the South Lorain Community Development Office, in the Koury Building on Pearl Avenue. It will be open to the public, and as soon as I hear from Anne in regards to the date and time, I will pass it on here.

South Lorain, as a whole, needs quite a bit of help. Pearl Avenue is in horrendous condition, and there’s not much retail to speak of for the folks in this area. There are a lot of Mom-n-Pop stores, but I don’t believe they fulfill all the needs of the local residents.

Though the sign says ‘No Dumping’, I think it’s way too late. South Lorain has had to deal with this dump for far too long.

So, Community Development and the Powers-That-Be in City Hall, what’s in the works for South Lorain? Is there anything they can look forward to?

 

Chagrin Falls, Ohio

Many years ago, in another life, I visited Chagrin Falls. Very cozy, cute little town. After doing shoots and articles on Elyria, Norwalk, Amherst and Lorain’s downtown, I had to go see Chagrin Falls again, 15+ years later. Since the rest of my family had plans away from home this past weekend, I treated myself to a trip east.

When I turned the corner onto N. Main, I thought I’d taken myself there during some huge festival. Cars parked up and down the street (Saturday afternoon, just after 3pm.), people walking into and out of businesses, talking on the sidewalks, just having the time of their lives. I finally found a parking spot on the other side of downtown, and started walking.

This was business as usual. Nothing exciting or out of the ordinary. Just people getting out on a brisk weekend day, and doin’ stuff. I think I counted 4 or 5 cafes or restaurants, a coffee shop, popcorn shop, a bookstore and a unique resale shop, and so much more. And it was all BUSY!!!  Kinda dreamed the dream of this being downtown Lorain, risen from the dead, and rejuvenated.

I’m gonna hold onto that dream with both hands…

Here are some of the businesses in Chagrin Falls.

 

Candies, flavored popcorn, ice cream and sorbets, flavored coffees, etc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stop lights on either end of the downtown, numerous crosswalks with “Yield to Pedestrian” signs in the middle, and some pretty high priced vehicles scattered around the street. Two Porsches, numerous Lexuseseses, Caddies, and Audis.

I will admit that the Falls falls are a huge draw. I saw a lot of people with cameras and posing in front of the falls. I saw THREE different wedding parties lining up at various spots along the River with the falls in the background, and there’s 2 sets of falls!! (I’ll have shots of those later.)

Looking at these businesses, wouldn’t you just love to see this in Lorain?! The MJ wrote a few months ago that a summer intern put together a guide of downtown, with owners and the businesses they run, or the empty buildings they own, and some other info for Mayor Tony K to access. It would be great if something was being put together to get some of these property owners access to money or get them motivated to do something or just sell the building to someone who will.

Or what about getting permission from the EPA to create a set of falls on the Black River…?

That just might be a little easier….

 

Saving Downtown: You Can Help!!

COMPANY IS COMING – we have “international visitors” to the International City …. Wine on the Water and the antiques fair this weekend – can you or your children, students , customers, parishoners ,mums and dads help to add some life colour and fragrance to our main street…..lets have “Bright on Broadway.”

The City of Lorain is making a concerted effort to beautify Broadway. Daniel Lopez has been busy the last week weedwacking and maintaining the existing flowerbeds. The City is looking for volunteers to assist in the effort this Friday, August 8th.
The goal is to weed the flower beds, plant flowers and mulching the beds.

The City has a limited number of hand tools and will be providing flowers and mulch. If you are interested in assisting in this effort, please contact the City of Lorain Community Development Department at 204-2020. If you can help, please plan on meeting at 9:30 am at Lorain City Hall, 200 W Erie Avenue, 5th Floor. From there we will coordinate the work. Thank you.

I’m sorry I cannot make it, as I’ll be out of town that day. If anyone happens to be able to help, and I encourage any and everyone that can to please do so, and someone can take any pictures of the projects, I’ll be more than happy to help give credit where it’s due. – hh

Saving Downtown: There IS $$$ Available

I’m liable to be at this until I drop or until Downtown looks the way I envision it. I’m praying the latter beats the former.

After sending out a barrage of emails asking about loans or grants that might be available for downtown building owners to use, it occurred to me to ask the man that holds the money. But it’s not who you’re thinking of. Sometimes, walking through one door, unlocks the next one. Because I did the Community Development interview, I got the opportunity to meet Doug Rangel. Doug is the Executive Director of the Lorain Development Corporation. Flashing back briefly, this is what Sandy Prudoff explained to me during the interview:

The other division, which is not really a city department, is our contract with the Lorain Development Corporation. The reason why we have a contract with them, we don’t have city staff doing that, is that he (Doug Rangel) has a ward of accountants, bankers, attorneys and business people. They, for no fee, and volunteer time, meet with Doug, and any small business request for financing, all the way up to $1.3 million on the Duane Building, all the way up to a $6 million undertaking of the Industrial Park, he and his Board, but primarily him, will structure the financing, monitor the financing. The Industrial Park had $2+ million for the loan, a loan from the State. A $2+ million loan from the Federal Government, a $2 million grant from the State, and a $2 million grant from the EDA (Economic Development Association).

What happens in these programs is, you get the Federal money to spend first, so you get reimbursed once the State sees you’ve spent the Federal money. So you send all of your construction plans into HUD, then you have to send that to the State. Because the State has loaned us money, they’ll reimburse us about 40% of that. Then you send that to the Federal Government to EDA, and they’ll reimburse us for the grants. It’s a layered group of funds, and this is the guy (Doug), along with Larry Mitoff, who basically maintain an array of financing.

So, last night I shot an email to Doug. I got a reply back this morning! Doug gets a huge round of applause for being timely. This is what Doug had for me:

The City does have a low-interest rate loan program specifically geared for downtown businesses for exterior work.  It is called the Commercial Facade Improvement Program to help improve the building facades in the downtown district.  It is to be used in conjunction with private financing and/or equity.  The funds are available for a term not to exceed 15 years at 5% per annum, 3% preferred rate if owner utilizes a professional architect.  Loan size ranges from $500 to $7,500 per qualifying building elevation but must be matched on 1:1 basis with private funding.  The plans require that Design Review approve any changes and/or modifications.  A set of guidelines and application is available upon request from myself.

If you are looking at work to interior spaces we have are typical loan program, but that is limited to 30% of total project cost with minimum 10% equity and 60% private financing.  The funds can be used for renovation but require job creation/rentention.

All of these loans are subject to review and approval by the loan board of Lorain Development Corporation as well as Board of Control, if they fall within the guidelines and would additionally require City Council approval if the loan request goes outside of guidelines.

Please feel free to contact me if there are any other questions.

Doug Rangel

In my phone call to Doug this morning, he told me that Scorcher’s, Swiss American Jewellers and Ghoulardi’s (improvements not visible anymore) are three of the local businesses that have already taken advantage of the loan program. He hopes and wishes that more businesses contact him for this, as it would really improve the looks of our Downtown.

So, there is money available, folks. And I’m still looking for more. So, stay tuned.

Community Development: An Interview – Part IV – The Wrap-Up

Everyone at one time or another has mentioned money, and it comes up in rumors and innuendo, and you’ve mentioned loans and grants. How does this department fund itself? Does the money come from the City? Do you get paid through the grants?

Don – One of the major funding sources for the department staff is the Block Grant and Home programs. Doug’s contract used to be funded solely by Block Grant. His contract is now funded solely by the interest earned off of our investment portfolios. Our Block Grant budget is now about $1.2 million and change. Our Home is down to about $400,000. But we generate approximately $2 million in program income on an annual basis. So, in reality, we’re talking about a pot of funds that’s about $3.6 million.

Doug – The commercial loan portfolio that I deal with, that doesn’t go back into other overhead expenses. We turn that over, the revolving loan funds, back into new loans. My contract is the only one that hits the loan funds but we make more than enough interest. And these are all low-interest rate loans, anywhere from 3 – 5%. But there’s more than enough interest there that allows my contract to be funded, just by the interest, and then we get all of our principal back. So, from that portion of it, we do have some of that, but some of that just gets funded back into the business, as we’re not using the loans to pay for that other stuff, some of the other expenses.

Don – But that allows us to continue the economic development while the grant is picking up… So, you’re talking about a pot of funds there about $3.6 million. Colorado Industrial Park which morphed into Colorado Commerce Park which became Riverbend, that’s us looking at the reality of the market, beginning to position ourselves for marketing the park as we got closer and closer to… Then we cobbled together $7 million in different financing, and part of that was to cover the administration, the actual overhead of doing all of that work: Installing over a mile of roadway, acquiring over 400 and some acres, and the negotiations that that took. And, so we also have grants in projects that generate revenue for the department.

By the time it’s said and done, that’s how we do it: the projects we work on, either they’re eligible for federal funding and so the Block Grant and Home picks up the staff costs; or the individual project – we have money budgeted within that project to administer it, to oversee it and implement it. So there’s never, you won’t find a Community Development line item in the General Fund but, on occasion, like projects with the sewer collapse, Council saw that it was appropriate for them to provide some money to help cover our costs in reviewing that. So we set up these projects like that. It creates some interesting conversations and it also creates some tight budgets because there’s not necessarily a baseline that you can count on. When Camaco expanded, we served as their construction manager. They actually asked us to serve as their construction manager. We ended up serving in that role, and $60,000 was given from Camaco to the City, to pay for our costs to manage that project. That way, that’s fairly entrepreneurial. You’re not going to see many cities that are able to do that, and it also keeps us available for other projects. Otherwise, Rey would be hired and laid off, and hired and laid off, and you would lose that…

Jan – …continuity?

Don – Well, not only continuity but when you need that 5 minute phone call for a little bit of help, ‘Well, gee, he’s not here! We let him go last week!’ It’s important that you do your best to keep everyone together and we’ve been looking at how the City does business and there are some things that can be done better, and there are some things that the City does incredibly well.

The one thing that’s amazing is how much work has been gotten out on such tight budgets. Everyone is understaffed. Everyone has been understaffed for a looooong time.

Jan – I might add that we’re a sophisticated staff and we have the education and other departments sometimes turn to us for assistance. Chris here has actually taught GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and helps with some grant requests that come to us.

So those are things that aren’t as obvious. I was going to add that so often what we do is a long time in doing and is hidden. We don’t broadcast it. That’s necessary at times. Because the type of work we do, sometimes we can’t be obvious. It has to be kept under wraps until the proper time for it to be advertised. There’s a lot of work being done, sort of under the surface, to make sure that it’s done correctly.

Don – When a developer expresses interest in the City, we can’t say ‘Company XYZ is coming or has an interest.’

Jan – But there’s an awful lot of work that has to be done behind the scenes in preparation.

Don – There’s been a lot of other projects that we’ve gotten into, and we’ve spent a lot of time, but unfortunately, nothing comes to fruition. You know, typical salesman, if you get one close for every 10 leads then you’re doing good. It’s not that here, but there’s times that we put a lot of work in, and then unfortunately, we don’t get this company or we can’t get this grant, and a lot of that does happen. It’s just a fact of life. So there is a lot of work that’s going in, we just don’t always get the results we’d like to. I think we do a fairly good job of closing what we do work on.

I guess one example is we’ll serve sometimes as a consultant. Chris was very busy with the Soccer Academy. They received no funding from the City, but they were looking for sites, and they hit a wall on where they thought they would want to be, which was around Avon. They just could not locate a site that would fit their needs, their budgets and whatnot.

Chris – We served as an effective middleman. We were able to hook them up with a property owner that had a site that they were really interested in. Got them together in multiple meetings and kinda mediated. They were able, from those meetings, to find some common ground, and we were able to execute the deal. They had some very specific criteria, and we came up with about 7 sites to show them around Lorain. The last site we showed them was Emerald Valley, and they loved it, because it’s flat and there’s hardly any trees.

Don – But there was some resistance and how could you go, from some people in the organization, how could we go here, we have a golf course that’s operating. It took a little bit of convincing even though, in the end, it was the perfect site for them. Just because it was an ongoing business, it was a greenfield, but it wasn’t your typical greenfield.

Chris – We were extremely fortunate that they decided to locate here. That is one of our premier developments.

Don – It was fortunate, but we sort of made our own fortune. It was 7 sites, and Chris driving around with them, talking to them and calling the different property owners, and working on all of that. Unfortunately, they hit a little roadblock that, I don’t know why they weren’t able to overcome it in Avon, but we were more than…

Chris – It was wet. Over 80% wet. Very wet and that was the problem. So this site has small pockets but definitely workable.

This whole department really functions…Team Approach. Everybody has their niche, so to speak, and we all draw upon each other on our specific projects. It’s nice to see everybody come together toward the common goal. That’s the really nice thing about the 5th Floor. Everybody works well together, and when we have an issue, when something comes up, we’re all there, ready to tackle it. It’s kind of a nice way to do business.

Don – And it allows that creativity as well, because Chris will see a problem one way, or an issue, and Jan will see it another, I’ll be a third, and then there’s Doug…

Chris – He’s always out in left field anyway.

Don – But everyone will come together, they bring their own expertise, their own ideas, and sometimes you have, sometimes there’s heated discussions and other times it’s simple 1-2-3. But I think we get the answers right, or closer to right, much more often than not. That’s why when we do go down to Council, we typically do OK. There haven’t been a lot of projects that we’ve brought down where Council has said, ‘Absolutely not.’ Part of it is, we try to communicate with the Administration and Council. They’ve given us an idea of where to go, or when an opportunity comes up we’ll let them know ‘Hey, here’s an opportunity, we’d like to take advantage of it.’

We talk it through with them; we kinda give them our best advice on how we think it will go. Very rarely will we make a guarantee. We’ll say, ‘It’s our understanding, it’s our belief for these reasons that it’s good, but here are the things to be concerned about.’ Council and administration has really appreciated that they go in with eyes partially open if not fully open, based on our ability to take a look at things. We do try to be creative because of the limitations that we do have on our funds, on putting things together.

To do what we did in that Commerce Park was just outrageously difficult in that….

Jan – Don’t ask him to give you the whole litany of…20 minutes, just on that. (laughter)

Don – I mean some State grants, you can’t use them to pay sewers, so you had to make sure that when you were…certain expenses weren’t allowed with the State loan.

Chris – Tell him about the archeological grid. Tell him about the grid.

Don – Oh, Wow! Well, before we even started up any of that, we were trying to figure out whether this was a viable project. Because Federal money was going to go into it, we needed a full-blown environmental assessment in accordance with the Federal regulations. And because of how the land was never really fully developed at any time in its recent history, like, going back 200 years, we had to do an archeological survey. At first they were even talking about whether or not we had to do the landfills, we said ‘Trust me, the landfills’ been disturbed.’ You’re not going to find anything there. And then, all the other land was farmed. I think we had pictures from the -20’s, what the vineyards looked like, and the steel mill on a small portion of the US Steel land.

They had to dig holes, every 3 meters?

Chris – They wanted to do every foot.

Don – On 200 acres. A grid of every foot you dig a pit. Are you nuts? No way, are you nuts? But since the public was footing the bill, they didn’t care. We kept at’em, we kept negotiating, we’re not doing a foot, we’ve gotta figure something else out. We eventually got to 10 meters?

Chris – It was something like that.

Don – It was still a lot of pits dug! And what it was, was if they found something in one of those, then they would (unintelligible). We found, over 200 acres, we found 2 sites that were ‘of interest.’ And they weren’t eligible for national historic; the report came back ‘more investigation needed before development.’ It was like, OK, ‘we’re not developing here, we’re not developing there,’ we’ll just protect them for now. And if a company came along that needed to then we’d invest the money. But it didn’t make sense for us, for the public, to spend the money to figure out whether or not there was really anything there. Especially when we could just say, ‘we just won’t develop here unless we have a real use.’ So that was the approach we took.

We similarly had to do a wetlands survey, a wetland delineation, file a wetland permit, we actually came up with the idea with Elmwood, where we were able to keep the wetlands in the City of Lorain. We created our own wetland bank that the City controls. And then West Nile broke out and we had a bit of a furor. And there was just a public education. It didn’t matter what we wanted to do, people were afraid and they couldn’t overcome this fear. Those wetlands are still there, and the furor has died down, so I’m hopeful that sometime in the future, as development continues on our West Side and wherever, that people look at some of the groundwork that was laid, where, keep the wetlands within the City, added to existing assets. We just finished a $25,000 investment to improve the trails through Elmwood, that we did fairly quietly (it’s not quiet anymore! – hh) Again, it’s improvements to the quality of life, and it’s also an economic development engine, to be able to replace wetlands within the City, while developing other places, and then create a nice park.

Chris – That’s just some of the things that we have to do. Make sure that everything’s done correctly. And that’s why it took so long. Ten years, lining up funding, lining up the purchase of the site. All of our due diligence, including the archeological (survey), had to be done first, before we could take title, to the US Steel site on the East Side. It was a long, carefully thought out process. So far, we’ve been fairly successful. You know, ten years is a long time. It’s a long term goal, a long term project. We went into this knowing it’s going to take 20 to 30 years to build this thing up.

Don – That’s the one thing, I think everybody wants stuff done now, particularly with commercial development. We have to have some patience. On the City’s West Side, out on Baumhart, the Industrial Park that the City participated in out there, that took 15 years to fill up with those companies. Most of the land on that Industrial Parkway is full. The one thing that they have to remember is, this, the Riverbend Commerce Park that we’re looking at, it’s not going to get filled in 3 years, 4 years. It’s going to be a 15 to 20 year project. And it’s all going to depend on the economy. So, while we’d like to fill it up right away, the reality is: it’s going to take a while. This is not something that happens overnight. Even getting the project to where it has…It’s taken us a while; it’s not been a perfect trip. We’ve taken a look at those, we’ve adjusted, and we still think we’ve got a real good project. The economy is down, so that doesn’t help. But the nice thing is, when it’s ready to heat back up again, we’re now well-positioned, we’re ready to move.

So it’s all in positioning yourself. Businesses are becoming a little bit more anxious. When they say ‘Hey, I’ve gotta move,’ before it used to be ‘I’ve gotta plan for two years out.’ Now, they say ‘We’ve gotta be ready to go in 6 months.’ So that’s why we’ve put that out there is so we are at that point so when we tell them ‘You need to move, we can move, here’s the timeframe.’ You have to position yourself to be ready for development when it’s ready to happen. Having the control of the land, the roads in there, all you need to do us put your building down, and you’re ready to go, and that’s within the timeframes of building.

Chris – That’s the best role for development departments like this one, is to make development as easy as possible. And as friendly to the business as possible. You can’t make a company go… ‘Well, why can’t we put Eat n’ Park here?’ Well, Eat n Park doesn’t want to go there. But if somebody wants to go there, we can make that transition, that move to our community for them as easy as possible. As beneficial to them as possible. That’s kind of what our role is; the urban commerce park’s the best example. When that rolls open, when we really start marketing that, the economy picks up a little bit, we’re ready for them. We have incentives we’ve tried, our IRG facility, testing them out, see how successful that is, bringing investment to Lorain. I think we’re seeing it work, and if it keeps going, we can still do it over in the Industrial Park.

Don – With IRG, they’ve only had that for just over a year now and pretty shortly here they’re going to have four, 3 – 4 good-sized companies. 200 employees, not the 1700 that they used to have. Again, we’re talking 3 million square feet is a lot to fill; it’s not going to go quickly. But if you’re patient, and the City’s willing to take the time and make the investment, eventually it’s going to pay.

But you have to show a little patience. That’s the one thing, we’d like the people to be just a little more patient. Give us the time to develop it, because you don’t want us to throw just anything in there. You want to make sure that you do the right thing.

Community Development: An Interview – Part III

Sandy – “Each of these staff work on what you would call ‘daily quadrants.’ Whatever you work on is what you charge your time to. Because we have such a large list of funding sources; If Drake is working on Housing or Infill, he charges to that. If he’s working on Rehab, he charges to that. If he’s working on the sanitary line break on Oak Point Road, then it’s charged to a General Fund account. So this would be ‘Citizen’s Participation.’ So everyone here, including myself, for this week would charge our time to an account called ‘Citizen’s Participation’ since we’re here explaining who we are and what we do. No one here has a dedicated account because none of us, typically, are funded on a regular basis out of the General Fund. So we’re, to that extent, a business, in that, everything we do has to reflect how we charge our money.

“The staff of Planning are all involved in projects on Pearl Avenue, the restoration of Pearl Avenue, Central Lorain between 14th and 18th, all the way over to Broadway and the Stoveworks, and I just kinda hang around and look important.” (At this point, Sandy, Drake, Howard, Larry and Rey had to leave.)

I told those remaining (Chris, Jan, Don and Doug) how much I appreciated the help and the introduction of the entire department.

Don – “We do pride ourselves on being as accessible as possible. It’s not always possible, but we definitely try to answer any questions that people have. Public records requests, we do have our Consolidated Plans Process that Jan heads up, public meetings, all the Urban Renewal Plans we’ve had at multiple public meetings; we try to interact with the public to the best of our ability, try to answer questions, as well, when the public does have them, we keep a fairly flat organization, it allows for a lot of interaction amongst the people that work here, we have a fairly creative environment in house once we’re given the idea which direction the Administration would like to go, or which direction Council would like to go.”

I asked if there was anything that the citizens of Lorain could do to help ComDev do their job.

Jan – “I think that we need to keep an open dialogue, and if there are issues, if there are concerns, then it’s important that they speak up and let us know about it. And rather than spread rumors, come to us and talk to us directly. We can’t be everywhere, so if you see something, if you see an issue, a building that is vacant, either contact us or the Police or somebody, don’t just complain about it. Open dialogue is very important.

Don – “Attend the public meetings that we have. They’re advertised in the paper, they’re on our webpage. Typically, we get real good turnout on urban renewal meetings because everyone’s afraid of eminent domain. I don’t think as part of Urban Renewal, we’ve ever exercised (eminent domain proceedings)…, we actually negotiated a settlement on one. I don’t think we’ve ever actually made it into the courtroom and had a verdict given. Typically, it ends up being negotiated well before then. But that’s when we get the big turnout.

“Take a look at our track record; take a look at the plans. They’re not the fanciest, but they’re realistic. They provide an idea of where it is the City wants to go; they’ve all had the input of the public. Like the lakefront one, we don’t jam these studies to meet our needs, we actually go in with the open mind and see, ‘Does the area qualify?’, and if it doesn’t, we have to adjust.

“We’re trying to build some credibility; we’re definitely all professionals here. We’ve always let the work talk for itself. Unfortunately, the word doesn’t always get out. Public participation, communication with us, the webpages have been updated, the contact information we’ve had out for about 4 years now.”

Jan – “And that goes with what I was saying about the open dialogue. We appreciate when individuals like you actually come and talk to us, and find out what’s going on, because it’s usually the same response: the eye-opening ‘Oh, you really are doing something.’ The perceptions are not always valid. Also, understanding that we are constrained by the bureaucracy, which is a necessary layer that is imposed upon all of the City government, because we are using public money. But that means that we are not able to jump and react as quickly as those in the private sector. So, when we want to make changes to the pages on the web(site), we can’t just go in and change it. We can’t just call up the company that does the webpage and have it changed. We also cannot just wave a magic wand and have development along here. We’d love to have that along Broadway. We’d love to be able to fill those vacant buildings. There are constraints that, unless you’re actually right here on the pavement, you don’t realize. So, we appreciate it when individuals like you actually come in and find out what’s going on, rather than just repeating the age-old ‘What are they doing?’, ‘What a waste of time-red tape bureaucracy.’”

Chris – “And to what Don said about our track record, we kinda made a shift about 10 years ago, into really focusing on economic development and job creation, and bringing investment to the City. Prior to that, the department mainly focused on Streets and Parks, and more on the community aspect of what the department was able to do. When we refocused onto the economic development, we really went headfirst into the Industrial Park on the East Side. It’s taken about 10 years to get to this point. We’re starting to see some fruits of that with a couple companies going in there. I guess a testament to good track record is when we did our Black River Master Plan, that was 8 years ago that we finished that. What you see on the Plan is what we’re building. It’s really quite remarkable a plan has actually made it to structure.”

Don – “A government plan being built?! You’re kidding me?!”

Chris – “We’re quite proud of that. It’s the goal of having business and industry coming in and working in concert with environmental concerns and working together on that. That’s really a success over there.”

Doug – “Even the financing on that, it’s taken a couple of trips down to Columbus to get the right mix. When we started out, we were at a much higher debt level and when we looked at it, we said ‘Gee, that’s something that we want to be at.’ So, in terms of discussion, the grants, we kept taking it along, and the grants, from like the Department of Commerce kept going up until we got to $2 million. Don and I went down there one time, and we were discussing one State loan, and they helped us out by switching part of it from a loan, and made it an additional grant. So, we finally molded something that we believed could be something the City would find acceptable. And there was a lot behind that. There’s a lot of documentation that takes place that, I’ve got a binder that’s this thick just on the one State loan. And the EPA loan that we have has a lot of documentation. I think a lot of times, people don’t understand all of the work that goes behind that just to get to that final signing. The documentation here is extremely heavy.”

Jan – “But it should be.”

Doug – “So, everything has a reason, sometimes it may not seem as clear. When people ask, ‘Why?’ we typically have a real good answer because there is a good answer on why we went this way or that way.”

Part IV will be posted Wednesday, and the question how Com Dev funds itself is asked.