Merchants on Main Street braced themselves for a rough summer of torn-up sidewalks and disrupted entrance ways that never happened.

Merchants on Main Street braced themselves for a rough summer of torn-up sidewalks and disrupted entrance ways that never happened.

"My merchants were very disappointed. This is something that's been in the planning for many years," Downtown Painesville Organization Executive Director Jen Reed said.

But an additional $143,000 in Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) grant money received this month means the bidding process can begin again on the focal point of the master improvement plan in the city of Painesville.

The focal point project of the city's master overhaul plans -- the "Streetscape" project -- was slated to begin at the end of spring 2013.

It was put on hold because of higher-than-expected contractor bids that proved higher than available funds.

Douglas L. Lewis, Painesville's assistant city manager and community development director, said the state has rules in place to ensure projects can be paid for before construction begins.

"Contracts cannot be in an amount more than 10 percent of the estimated project costs," he said, according to Ohio Revised Code.

The original NOACA grant money, the Community Development Block Grant Program plus funds from city, the DPO and the county -- earmarked for the Child and Family Services building improvements -- was enough to cover the $1,174,487 original base estimate.

The closest price bid was more than $1.3 million, for which the additional money will put them in a position to pay.

"If you bid something out earlier in the year, the rates are better," she said. "Hopefully starting in the spring means we can use our money more efficiently."

The project fund will be allowed to retain the added money even if bids are much lower because of a maintained (and required) 25 percent match to the grants from local organizations.

Reed said the difference in construction season also means a "silver lining" around the delay.

"Now we can have it start it in the spring and be ready for June," she said. "We can have a great summer on Main Street without construction."

Reed said residents and visitors will notice narrower streets that are easier to cross and wider sidewalks that provide walkability and seating.

"It's going to be more of a destination," she said.

Once that project is complete, parties involved are hoping businesses will be drawn to filling empty storefronts, causing a chain reaction of economic growth.

Next on the list would be developing the former Lake East Hospital site.

"I'm anxious to see what kinds of plans we'll get for that area," Reed said. "We need retail downtown so I'm looking forward to that opportunity."

2013 The News-Herald (Willoughby, Ohio)

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