Cuyahoga Falls -- City Council will vote July 27 on spending $74,000 for a study of what would be needed to allow cars and trucks to drive up and down Front Street, something that has not been permitted since the late 1970s.

Planning Director Fred Guerra told City Council on July 20 the city is investigating opening up the downtown pedestrian mall that lies on Front Street from Broad Boulevard to Oakwood Drive, changing the one-way sections of Front and Second streets to two-way streets and making changes to the state Route 8 interchange north of the one-way streets on Bailey Road.

The city administration is seeking Council's approval to enter into a contract with MKSK, a Columbus firm that specializes in urban planning, architecture and design. Money to cover the cost of the study -- $73,975 -- would come from the city's Community Development Block Grant budget, Guerra said.

"This is a study that will provide us with a more informed base to make decisions on what we want to do in the next step," he said. "And the next step is opening up the mall, going to two-way traffic and making changes to the interchange."

Work would involve a traffic study, a cost analysis and public meetings, he said.

MKSK has completed similar work opening up pedestrian malls in Richmond, Ind., and Louisville, Ky., Guerra said, and worked on one-way / two-way conversion projects in Columbus.

MKSK also drew up the original design for the Portage Crossing retail development at Portage Trail and State Road, he said.

"We'd like to get [the study] done by the end of the year so we know what we need to do for the future," Guerra said.

Councilman Bob Weinhardt (R-4) said the "vast majority" of the downtown merchants he's talked think opening up Front Street is a "positive thing," however they would rather see only one-way traffic where the pedestrian mall is now.

"We know from different studies, you really need two-way traffic with [on-street] parking to help retail development," Guerra said. "One-way traffic moves traffic You really need slow, narrow lanes [in two directions] to get the best visibility for businesses."

Tax break pacts

up for renewal

In other business, City Council will consider on July 27 accepting recommendations of the Tax Incentive Review Council and the Community Reinvestment Area Housing Council to renew all tax exemption agreements within the city. The city has 31 active agreements and has had 38 community investment abatements since 1996 said Diane Sheridan, community development director for the city.

"Since 1996, we have had or will have over $195 million of community investment once the four recently passed abatements are constructed," Sheridan said, referring to agreements with Menards, Arkay Properties (Triad/The Foundry), River Falls Properties III (boutique hotel) and Cascade Auto Grouop (Audi Terminal).

Sheridan said 509 jobs have been or will be created once the final four abatements conclude construction and more than 1,882 jobs have been retained in the city.

state plans

to improve Route 8

City Council will also vote on a measure to assure cooperation with the Ohio Department of Transportation in its plan to improve the pavement of state Route 8 within the city using what is called micro-surfacing technology.

ODOT will apply a thin layer of polymer-modified asphalt to extend the surface life of the pavement from seven to nine years, city Engineer Tony Demasi said.

The last time Route 8 saw its surface improved was in 2009, he said.

Work will be done by the state at no cost to the city, Demasi said. The project will be bid out in late 2016 with work commencing in the spring of 2017.

Email: swiandt@recordpub.com

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