Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland made his annual stop at the Cleveland Kiwanis Club today to deliver his final State of the City address as the municipality's top elected official.Rowland announced last …
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland made his annual stop at the Cleveland Kiwanis Club today to deliver his final State of the City address as the municipality's top elected official.
Rowland announced last week that he will not seek seek re-election. He is stepping down after 28 years of guiding the city's fortunes. He is currently the state's longest-serving mayor.
Rowland's talk will be reported by the Banner in a four-part series, with today's article covering his comments on downtown redevelopment, and transportation.
In his noon speech, Rowlans displayed his love for the city he has served "With Spirit" all these years. Though noting Cleveland's 175th anniversary last year, he emphasized he's not quite that old.
"We celebrated Cleveland’s 175th birthday in 2017. That’s a lot of years," he said. "But our city is not acting its age. We are a young, growing city with our best days still ahead of us. We have been preparing for the future as we celebrated the past."
Rowland emphasized a major part of that preparation continues to be focused on downtown redevelopment, with the recent selection of a consulting team.
He related that a group of citizens and downtown stakeholders reviewed the candidates and selected two finalists to be considered by the Cleveland City Council. The two consulting teams made their presentations in mid-November, and the mayor said both were impressive.
The mayor noted the process of getting to this point in the plan.
"A series of citizen meetings were held last summer," he said. "In addition, a survey ... attracted about 1,000 responses. ... This input will be part of the planning as the city moves forward."
The city staff is developing a first draft of a Strategic and Community Plan for presentations to the council. The presentations will include parks, recreation and sports tourism, streets, sidewalks, Stormwater facilities; downtown and southside redevelopment; public safety; and budgeting.
There will be additional community meetings in February and March in each city district.
The mayor reminded the Kiwanians that years ago a downtown plan was commissioned by MainStreet Cleveland, some of which has already been implemented.
Rowland said excitement about the future of Cleveland is not confined to downtown.
In May, the new APD 40 Tom Rowland Interchange, was opened. It is already unlocking the potential for the APD 40 corridor east of Interstate 75. It leads to Spring Branch Industrial Park, the future workplace for thousands of people.
Preparations for the park are expected to be finished next spring, Rowland said.
Acreage surrounding the park is attracting the attention of commercial developers too. The mayor said the city knows of two hotels that have expressed an interest in that area; as well as some other potential businesses.
Rowland said the APD 40 area shares the traffic improvement spotlight with other areas of a growing city. The near future includes work at three intersections: Peerless Road at 25th Street, Georgetown Road at 25th Street and Paul Huff Parkway at Peerless Road.
The city is working closely with the county, plus state agencies, through the Metropolitan Planning Organization to coordinate future street and highway projects and arrange for grants.
The local MPO recently prioritized a list of projects for the state to consider for the future. They include, in order of priorities, widening Georgetown Road (Highway 60) to State Route 306 near Hopewell Elementary School; widening North Lee Highway from near Anatole Lane to Lauderdale Highway; improvements and widening of I-75 north from Exit 33 (Lauderdale Memorial Highway) to near the Bradley/McMinn county line; and improvements and widening Georgetown Road from State Route 306 at Hopewell School to near State Route 58 in Hamilton County.
After those future project, TDOT and the MPO are considering widening I-75 south from Exit 20 to the Hamilton County line with a southbound truck climbing lane across White Oak Mountain.
The mayor also discussed upgrades at the Cleveland Regional Jetport, including the 500-foot extension to the runway. The runway is currently 6,200 feet long. The longer runway will benefit current and future corporate aircraft and local area pilots. "It makes an already strong selling point for our city even stronger," Rowland added.
He said the demand for hangar space continues to grow at the Jetport, and increased use will mean increased revenue for the Jetport and more economic development opportunities for the city.
"The Jetport is important for individuals as well as businesses.," stress the mayor. "For instance, it’s the base for LifeForce One."
Rowland related a recent story, where EagleMed flew a burn patient to Cleveland last summer for special emergency treatment in Augusta, Ga., in 44 minutes. "Sometimes this city facility is literally a lifesaver. We are now able to fly donor organs in real time," said the mayor in concluding the transportation portion at the start of his State of the City.
(Editor's note: In Part 2 of this four-part series Friday, Rowland will discuss economic development, Public Works, and Parks and Recreation.)
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