Support for downtown walkway
Some have criticized the proposed walkway connecting the Franklin Street parking deck with Courthouse Square as a waste of money. While I’m not a big fan of public/private partnerships, I think this is an excellent step in the right direction to revitalize downtown.
I can understand somewhat why people are leery of this project. The City of Warren and Trumbull County have a history of cronyism and corruption.
If someone doesn’t look too closely at this endeavor, he might think it is just the same old stuff happening again – another useless project just to line the pockets of somebody. After researching a little, I’m convinced that it is different.
The proposal by Paul Clouser asks for $80,000 from the Downtown Redevelopment Fund to help fund the 100-foot walkway through his building. This money comes from rental of a city-owned building and is earmarked for community redevelopment. That money would pay for a door to the walkway in the rear of the building, stairs and a chair lift.
Clouser would be putting in the walls, doing the lighting and refinishing the floors. Additionally, Clouser would be responsible for all insurance costs and would grant the city a 50-year easement.
Clouser and his wife purchased the building a few years ago and have embarked on a million-dollar restoration including three apartments on the upper level and a showroom for their business – National Fire and Water Repair – on the lower level.
Also on the lower level is an almost 2,000-square-foot space the Clousers could be renovate and lease. They have chosen instead to dedicate about half of that space for the walkway, which Clouser believes will add to the revitalization of the downtown.
I recently spent a little time with Clouser and found him to have a genuine passion for making Warren a better place to live. He is convinced that downtown can be revitalized and is putting his own money behind that conviction.
He and his wife have invested a great deal of time and money into working toward improving the downtown. He is a Warren native and lives in one of the apartments he has made in the upper level of the building he owns.
This is not a project that will benefit Clouser much in the short term. I would think that the easement and agreement to keep the doors open at certain times would make his building less attractive to any prospective buyers should he ever wish to sell. He is also potentially losing money by not renovating and renting the complete space.
Another thing about this proposal is that there has been a lot of transparency. Clouser may be asking for a back door, but his hasn’t been a backdoor deal – what a novel idea.
The naysayers on this project ask, ”Why bother since no one ever uses the parking deck?”
They do have a point. While parking in the deck has increased this year, the parking deck is located poorly and has had some problems with vandalism lately. It is what we have, though, isn’t it? We can only work with what we have.
We need to try to, in Councilman Eddie Colbert’s words, ”make it relevant.” This works toward that. It cuts down the walk from the deck to the square and will protect people from the elements. Making parking more convenient will attract people to the downtown and improve it.
Safety, though, is an issue and will certainly need some improvement as well. It should be noted that the money from the Downtown Redevelopment Fund cannot be used to hire police or security, so suggesting that the money would be better spent on that is futile.
Once again, we need to be realists and work with what we have. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t things that can be done to improve the deck. Video cameras could be added to the upper floors. Lighting could be improved. It has been suggested that a portion of the deck be set aside to park police cars. This is an excellent idea that would provide a police presence to deter crime.
The management of the parking lot could also be improved. Warren Parking Systems needs to be replaced. It lost money during its three-year contract that expired last month.
This walkway will certainly not be the only improvement necessary to revitalize downtown, nor is it meant to be. It is, however, a great first step, and Paul Clouser is to be commended for his vision and dedication to his native city.
Yoder is a West Farmington resident. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.