By Ed Runyan
Warren council will introduce legislation Wednesday that will allow the city to create an 87-acre revitalization district downtown to encourage commerce and development.
Specifically, the legislation allows up to 15 more liquor permits in that area. These could be acquired by restaurants that would also be able to sell alcohol, said Councilman Greg Bartholomew, D-4th, one of the sponsor of the legislation.
Mayor Doug Franklin’s administration took an earlier step Oct. 21 to recommend the creation of the district to city council, according to the legislation.
The intent of the legislation is to contribute to the entertainment, retail, educational, sporting, social, cultural, and arts opportunities in the city, it says.
The Ohio Legislature changed existing Ohio law last December at the urging of Franklin, Bartholomew and others to make Warren eligible for a revitalization district and the liquor permits that go with it.
Sen. Capri Cafaro of Hubbard, D-32nd, sponsored the legislation in the Senate; state Rep. Tom Letson of Warren, D-64th, sponsored it in the Ohio House. Gov. John Kasich signed it into law Dec. 20, 2012.
The legislation extended the use of such districts to communities like Warren, which has a population of 40,700. The law formerly only allowed cities with a population above 100,000 to create such a district.
In seeking the change in the Senate, Cafaro said it would “build on the growth already underway in Warren with the Eastern Gateway Community College and the Warren Business Incubator.”
She added that the legislation would “provide a combination of entertainment and dining opportunities for people visiting the downtown area.”
Letson said of the district, “It has to do with banquet facilities and restaurants, so it’s the larger part of an entertainment district and not just the service of alcohol.”
Bartholomew, who owns the downtown business All-Star Cards and Comics, said city officials have been trying to create an entertainment district downtown for about a decade.
He said areas such as the Short North area of Columbus, Flats in Cleveland, South Side of Pittsburgh and downtown Youngstown have benefitted economically from their entertainment opportunities, and Warren could, too.
If the area became an attraction, it would necessitate having more police presence, but the cost would be worth it, Bartholomew said.
The area would include the city-owned Peninsula area of West Market Street where the Martin Chevrolet dealership once stood, parts of Buckeye Street, South Street, Main Avenue, Franklin Street, West Market, East Market, Potter Court, Chestnut Avenue, Thorn Court, Elm Road, Vine Avenue, Pine Avenue, Park Avenue, High Street, Smith Place, Campbell Place, Elm Court, Laurell Court, Siddells Court and three alleys.