By Ed Runyan
Businessman Paul Clouser helped Warren officials do something they intended to do for decades — provide people with a good way to get from the Franklin Street parking deck next to David Grohl Alley to Courthouse Square, one block north.
On Friday, the project, known as The Shortcut, and The Shops at The Shortcut, was opened for public use.
Clouser, whose National Fire & Water Repair occupies the first-floor space next door and whose own home is on the third floor, said it was important that the walkway become more than a tunnel.
“It’s a shortcut, but you’re doing something while you’re doing it,” he said.
So, he invested the money to make it 24 feet wide with high ceilings, finished floors and walls, artwork from the Trumbull Art Gallery on the east wall and two commercial spaces along the west.
Shirley Brady of Warren will be opening her old-fashioned candy store, The Sweet Spot, in a couple of weeks, and she also is thinking about having items such as ice cream, coffee and bagels.
TAG and other arts groups are planning to use the other space. The door at Grohl Alley has steps and a lift to bring disabled people up and down.
Mayor Doug Franklin said parking in the deck will be free for the first two hours, like parking in other parts of downtown. The walkway will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. to accommodate those traveling to the courthouse.
The city owned two of the buildings along West Market Street block and hoped to build a walkway through one of them to increase use of the parking deck, Franklin said.
But both properties were sold and are being used for the Wean Foundation offices and by All American Comics.
Franklin said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday that he believes the walkway “is symbolic of a new enthusiasm and a new energy” surrounding the downtown, which he said has “the most beautiful courthouse square in the state of Ohio.”
He said he believes The Shortcut will give the downtown a more modern look, increase walk-ability, improve parking and “move the downtown forward.”
“People are always surprised to learn there are 31 people living in the downtown square,” Clouser said.
Clouser said he and his wife, Holly, and other downtown residents enjoy their small-town, downtown lifestyle.
“I remember when, at nighttime, there was nobody here. Now, there are people going to the Horseshoe for a beer, the Saratoga Restaurant for a meal, and it has a little big-city feel to it.”