Euclid entities making plans for downtown redevelopment

Downtown Euclid has been undergoing a transformation, say observers, thanks to a burgeoning culinary scene, new business investments, and property owners dedicated to reinvestment in their own ongoing enterprises.

Since April 2010, nearly $14 million has been invested or is in the process of being invested into downtown Euclid, says Jonathan Holody, director of the Cleveland suburb's department of planning and development.
First Merit Bank and an Aldi grocery store brought additional service-oriented infrastructure into the city. Restaurant options on Lakeshore Boulevard grew with the addition of Great Scott Tavern, a 7,500-square-foot bar and eatery that opened in April and a Chipotle is set for a 2,400 square-foot space in a Lakeshore shopping center.
Established businesses, meanwhile, have sunk money into their ventures, notes Holody. Beach Club Bistro installed a new canopy as part of a storefront renovation, while the Irish American Club added a patio to its East Side meeting place. Then there's chiropractor Paul Infield, who recently remodeled his downtown office next to Paragon Wine Bar.
Though pleased with the progress, those with a stake in Euclid's future are far from satisfied. The energy the city has accrued in recent years has been boosted by a new partnership between the City of Euclid and the Euclid Chamber of Commerce.
Since the beginning of 2015, the chamber, with the city's blessing, has been interviewing local business and property owners to identify improvements to Euclid's downtown, a swath stretching along Lakeshore Boulevard between East 217th Street and East 232nd Street. Together, these entities aim to accelerate development in a district with an estimated 700,000 square feet of commercial space.
"There's so much going on in that particular part of the city," says Sheila Gibbons, Euclid chamber executive director. "Now we're coming together to grow the area."
Organizers are ready to begin the next phase of increasing downtown Euclid's role as a hub for commercial and civic activity.
Last December, the local chamber entered into an agreement with the Community Improvement Corporation of Euclid (CIC) to look into various strategies for formally coordinating the downtown business district. A city council vote slated for today, October 15, is expected to continue that relationship, representing a necessary step in bringing change to Euclid's downtown-building aspirations.
"We saw the chamber as a champion for these plans," says Holody. "The chamber explored the possibilities and now there's interest in putting them in place."
A few good options
Discussions with merchants revealed three possibilities, which may be implemented individually or en masse, say organizers: The formation of a Special Improvement District (SID), a mechanism that permits area stakeholders to provide funding for a region's growth; an arts and entertainment enclave bolstered by a combination of retail, cultural or leisure establishments; and outdoor refreshment areas that allow patrons to tip back a beer exempt from open container laws. 
Based on Downtown Euclid Transportation and Redevelopment Plan guidelines set in 2007, the district could be expanded to include all of Sims Park and the Henn Mansion, the Lakefront Community Center and the Shore Cultural Centre. The plans would add three anchors that fit within the confines of a defined “community entertainment district," says Gibbons.
Whatever option is chosen, it will be connected to the nearby lakefront. In recent years, the lake has been promoted through a refurbished pier at Sims Park and the Critical Mass biking event. Euclid has future plans to open a three quarter-mile stretch of waterfront east of the pier to the public. A multi-purpose trail, paddle-craft beach and a marina with slips for 150 to 250 boats are also in the offing.
Planners involved with downtown Euclid's newest revitalization envision lake amenities linked to mixed-use commercial space built up along Lakeshore and eventually Shore Center Drive. Though specifics on the type of infrastructure are still to be determined, bringing in new businesses will lay the groundwork for future development.
"The goal is to come up with a plan that could expand to other parts of Euclid," says Gibbons. "The lake is a great starting point."
Adding to Euclid's assets
Greg Jurcisin, owner of Beach Club Bistro on the corner of E. 222nd Street and Lakeshore Boulevard, believes enough in Euclid to put his money where his business is.
Jurcisin’s original investment and recent renovations have made his restaurant part of downtown's foundation. As one of the property owners interviewed by the chamber regarding its redevelopment goals. Jurcisin, like most of his fellow merchants, is in favor of the city bolstering and connecting its established assets.
"I've been here for 15 years waiting for something to happen," says Jurcisin, who also runs Beach Club Grill in Concord Township.
Euclid has a small but solid dining and entertainment base, says the entrepreneur. Along with his digs, Jurcisin points to Great Scott Tavern and popular mainstays like Paragon Wine Bar and Atlas Cinemas. A good start, says Jurcisin, but to be successful long-term, the city-chamber partnership must attract unique cuisine options similar to what's available in vibrant commercial districts like Tremont and Coventry Road. Restaurateurs, including Jurcisin, have called for more ethnic eats in a community where such options are currently limited.
"You see other neighborhoods succeed because they're a little edgy," he says. "We don't have that kind of edge over here."
While the area has some culinary diversity, including Mama Catena Ristorante on Babbitt Road and Marta's on E.222nd Street, plugging in new restaurant concepts would be supported by the city, says planning director Holody.
"People are pointing out an opportunity," he says. "As the downtown restaurant scene grows, there could be greater potential to expand the types of dining available."
Neighborhoods with a variety of cool dining and leisure choices bring in visitor dollars from outside the community, Jurcisin says. No matter how Euclid's downtown development plans shake out, visitor attraction must be part of the municipality's end-game.
A bill passed by the Ohio House this spring that allows cities Euclid's size to create restricted outdoor drinking areas may help the cause, adds the restaurant owner. "Get a permit to do wine and beer tastings, or host concerts that would bring people down," says Jurcisin.
Drawing crowds will become easier once Euclid has an improved product to market, notes Paragon co-owner Chris Hammer. The city is already close to downtown Cleveland and some choice waterfront locales. Additional restaurants and retail could keep the crowds that arrive for events like the Summer at Sims free concert series and Euclid's annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
"Word-of-mouth is best form of marketing," says Hammer. "The whole city from the mayor [Bill Cervenik] on down have plans in place to make the area more accessible."
An indoor, seven-day-a-week music venue similar would also assist Euclid's patron attraction efforts, Hammer says. For now, he's pleased with the general direction of the newest transformation plan.

"Everyone has a positive outlook, especially as more business owners are trying get space down here," says Hammer.
Taking a look outside
Other communities have used the same tools Euclid is considering for its reformation, says Holody. Special improvements districts throughout the region, for example, have employed aggressive neighborhood marketing, litter pickup, annual street fairs, and street beautification in the form of sidewalk art and planters.
"We're excited about a SID because businesses would decide what any funds are used for," Holody says. "Who better to work with business owners than our chamber?"
Ultimately, in-place assets and proximity to Lake Erie give the Euclid's downtown an advantage, though it's up to plan organizers to harness those unique attributes, says the chamber's Gibbons.
"We want visitors to come to the district and say 'Do I want to eat, drink, watch a movie, or take a walk along the lake," Gibbons says. "That momentum can spread throughout the city."

Read more articles by Douglas J. Guth.

Douglas J. Guth is a Cleveland Heights-based freelance writer and journalist. In addition to Fresh Water, his work has been published by Midwest Energy News, Kaleidoscope Magazine and Think, the alumni publication of Case Western Reserve University. A die-hard Cleveland sports fan, he also writes for the cynically named (yet humorously written) blog Cleveland Sports Torture.   
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