Revitalizing the Vineyards Plaza on Vine Street in Eastlake could be a major focus for the city in 2019.
Mayor Dennis Morley described the city’s past year by using the word “upward.” He noted project completions from the past year as well as initiatives that are currently in place or are ongoing.
“End of ‘17 and ‘18 has been very good,” Morley said. “Hopefully ‘19 gets better. As more businesses come in, and bigger businesses, that obviously helps us.”
The mayor mentioned that the city has been short on staff and plans to budget for a new police officer, as well as service and property maintenance in the building department next year.
“We’re going to have a pretty decent carryover,” Morley said. “But the plan has been to try to bring back people when we need them. Because that’s the biggest cost to the city, is our personnel.”
He cited one of the major challenges facing the city is infrastructure repair.
“The infrastructures in all the cities needs to be a bigger priority,” Morley said. “No one can keep up with the roads. Drive through every city and the roads just continue to get worse.
“We actually got a grant for Willow Drive next year… so we’re hoping that that finally gets Willow Drive in better shape than its been.”
The mayor also highlighted some of the completed developments in 2018.
One of the projects was the opening of the Miracle League park on Vine Street in July. The park, next to Lake County Captains’ Classic Park, is designed to accommodate children with disabilities in ways a typical baseball field could not. The league held its first games at the park on July 28.
“The Miracle League — it will be their second year (in 2019),” Morley said. “We believe we’ll get more teams there for the special needs kids and that’s a great thing… If you’re having a bad day, that’s the place to go because no one there has a bad day. Those kids and parents are excited all the time.”
The mayor said that a temporary budget is in place for the city that will carry over through the first quarter. A new budget is expected to be in place by March.
“The directors here are very good at keeping within the budget,” Morley said. “That’s why we continue to have carryovers; better carryovers than we’ve had.”
Looking ahead to 2019, the mayor noted some projects and initiatives currently being worked on, as well as expected developments:
Willoughby-Eastlake School Board of Education building — After a fire in March 2017 forced offices to move out of the former Chandler-Tucker Estate in Willoughby, Willoughby-Eastlake Schools purchased and renovated a building in Eastlake to house school board offices and professional development services.
“They’re predicting after the first of the year, they’re going to move in,” the mayor said. “So that’ll bring more revenue.”
The five-story building, located at 35353 Curtis Blvd, will replace the temporary offices at the School of Innovation in Willoughby Hills.
Skate Park — Construction of a new community skate park began in fall of 2018, after the city had demolished the previous skate park for safety concerns two years prior.
The new skate park project is being undertaken by students from the Northern Career Institute Willoughby and North High School, based on a studentdrawn, award-winning design.
“The skate park will going in probably in the spring,” Morley said. “We worked with NCI-Willoughby there, too. With those kids, they’re doing a phenomenal job.”
Jakprints — Over the past year, Eastlake has been working with Jakprints, a custom printing company, to move their location to the former Walmart on Vine Street. According to the mayor, the effort to bring Jakprints into Eastlake began in 2017 and that they currently have 75-80 employees in the new location.
“That was over year to get that in the making, for them to move in… It was a trying experience,” Morley admitted. But he added, “For the year, it ended up being a good thing.”
The mayor said in a previous News-Herald article that Jakprints’ cofounders Jacob Edwards and Dameon Guess are originally from Willowick and Eastlake, respectively. They had wanted to return to their hometowns and found the former Walmart building was suitable for the company.
As far as revenue goes, the mayor recognized that new businesses — including Jakprints — will help city income.
“More businesses equal more revenue,” Morley said. “Our income tax is the biggest revenue in the city.”
Vine Street Corridor — Morley has worked closely with Willowick Mayor Rich Regovich and Willoughby Mayor Robert Fiala to apply for a Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency grant that would help their three cities revitalize their respective stretches of Vine Street.
They expect to hear back about the grant around March 2019.
“We want to clean up Vine Street and make it look a little better,” Morley said. “That’s the main area for Eastlake when people come in.”
He also noted that part of Eastlake’s Vine Street plan was to bring new stores and restaurants into the Vineyards Plaza, next door to the new Jakprints facility.
Another focus of the plan is repairing sidewalks and overgrown trees along Vine Street in spring 2019, which the city has obtained a $45,000 block grant for.
“Basically we looked at border to border,” Morley said. “Our main will be right over by the retail area where the Walmart is…” He mentioned that trees were overgrowing and the sidewalk has been lifted, then added, “we’re going to try to clean all that up.”
The mayor summed up future developments for Eastlake by saying, “We’re just going to continue to work on our roads, continue to work on the aesthetics of the city, and try to get it back to where every one of our residents want to see.”