Painesville to continue focus on development projects in 2023

Jan. 24—EDITOR'S NOTE — This is one in a series looking at what Northeast Ohio communities and agencies experienced in 2022 and what is facing them in 2023.

Painesville city officials plan to continue advancing various building projects in 2023 while working to fill a remaining department head opening, bringing businesses to the city's downtown and balancing its budget.

These plans come after the city took steps in 2022 to support developers and incentivize businesses while facing higher materials costs and job openings, noted City Manager Doug Lewis.

"It was a year of interest and investment in the city of Painesville which required the city of Painesville to look at what we could do to spur more development within our community," he said. "While I have been here 15 years, this is the first year I have seen major interest from outside investors. As a result, we had to look at how we did business and become more business friendly."

Lewis said Painesville partnered with developers to create a Tax Increment Financing district and obtain a $5.4 million tax credit from the Ohio Transformational Mixed-Use Development program, both of which "will enable over $57 million in new development in Downtown Painesville."

As reported in June, the city is working with Willoughby-based Marous Development Group's Grand River Walk on a project located at the former Painesville Hotel site, 257 E. Main St.

Lewis said that Grand River Walk is expected to include "a 140-unit apartment building and up to 20,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space on the lower level."

Meanwhile, Montville Township-based Renew Partners LLC will work on Victoria Place. A representative from the company said in June that the development on Painesville Square will target young professionals and empty nesters, with then-Economic Development Director Cathy Bieterman adding that it "would include commercial office space, multi-family, retail and restaurant development."

In 2023, Lewis said that the city will work to finish the development agreement for Victoria Place and continue progress with Grand River Walk.

Lewis noted that in addition to the downtown district, additional TIF districts were created along Chester Street and Richmond Street, while council voted to join the Lake County Communities Energy Special Improvement District on Dec. 21 to allow projects to receive Property Assessed Clean Energy funding.

Grand River Walk will overlook a proposed $1.4 million amphitheater at Kiwanis Recreation Park, for which the city received funding from the state capital budget and the American Rescue Plan Act. Lewis said that officials hope to "facilitate the creation of an entertainment district utilizing properties along State, Main and Latimore streets."

"We will install the amphitheater in 2025 after Marous Brothers has constructed the majority of their building," Lewis said.

City Council authorized him to apply for a $500,000 grant to finish the amphitheater project through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Land and Water Conservation program at the Nov. 7 meeting.

Renew Partners is also working to create student housing for Lake Erie College on Painesville Square. Lewis noted that Renew secured funding for the project in 2022 and began to remove asbestos from the property, which is located at the corner of South Park Place and Liberty Street in the building that formerly housed Lake National Bank and Chase Bank.

"The renovation of the building will start in 2023 with the intention of college students moving in by next school year," he added.

As reported in February, the building is expected to cost $16.4 million and include a public restaurant and suite-style housing for 174 students. The city will also work to improve the surrounding streetscape.

HOLA Ohio opened a Hispanic community center while Signature Health also opened a Painesville facility in 2022, Lewis added. Avery Dennison also invested $40 million in its Chester Street property after the city offered industrial clients an Economic Development Incentive Electric Rate.

While Painesville worked with developers, it also worked to fill its own ranks, with Lewis noting that job vacancies were one of the city's challenges in 2022. Among the new hires were Assistant City Manager Tony Zampedro, Planning Director Phoenikx Buathier, Public Works Director Jarod McCrone, Economic Development Director Susan Crotty and Finance Director Bill Parkinson.

"While hiring was a challenge, I could not be happier that existing staff stepped up and took on their responsibilities until we were able to hire new department heads to fill the positions," Lewis said.

He added that the city is still looking to fill an opening for the water superintendent position.

Lewis said labor shortages and increased costs "had a major effect on city projects" in 2022. He expects both labor and the economy to be continuing challenges in 2023.

The city's 2023 budget was approved by council on Dec. 19 in a 5-0 vote, with council members Lori DiNallo and Nick Augustine excused on leave. The city will budget for $86,981,455 in revenue and $92,417,780 in expenses, as noted in a Nov. 21 presentation.

Lewis added that the $352,439 deficit in the general fund is $2,000 lower than in 2022, and that the city aims to balance the fund in the future.

"The budget looks good for 2023," Lewis said. "While we have a slight budget deficit of $300,000 in the general fund, I feel that the new developments will fill those gaps and we will have a positive cash flow in 2023."

He said the city received a grant from the Ohio Brownfield Remediation Program for the Painesville Hotel site and bank building, while a Safe Routes to School grant was used for sidewalks on Elm Street.

The city also received a Natureworks grant and state capital budget funding for a proposed splash pad at Kiwanis Recreation Park, which Lewis said city officials would like to open before the end of the year.

"The splash pad will provide a safe place for parents to take their children to have fun at no cost without leaving the community," he said in June.

Painesville voters also approved two five-year renewal levies in 2022, continuing to fund the city's fire department and road resurfacing program.

"We want to thank the voters for their support," Lewis said.

Painesville is "developing concept plans for different properties and then recruiting developers that will work with us to accomplish City Council's vision," Lewis explained, adding that the city wants to encourage local restaurants, breweries and stores to open locations in downtown Painesville.

"I anticipate that 2023 will be a good year for Painesville," he said. "We have a lot of interest in investment within the community."