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WARREN Effort helps west side improve businesses

Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Beautification of the west side is under way, officials say.
WARREN -- The city's west side is getting a spruce-up, and officials say renovation of a plaza is the first step in an economic development initiative being undertaken through a partnership of public and private interests.
Officials made the announcement this morning, saying they've got plans to get the west side back on track.
Austin Village Plaza on West Market Street is owned by Paran Management Co. of Cleveland, which also owns the plaza on Ridge Road, just off U.S. Route 422.
Stores in Austin Village include Sparkle, Big Lots, Colortyme Rentals, a beauty supply store, Sun Health Spa, First American Cash Advance and Family Dollar. Some store fronts are vacant.
Mike Keys, director of Warren Redevelopment and Planning, said Austin Plaza, especially its parking lot, has been deteriorating.
Reasons for concern: Improvements are being made, he said, because the city doesn't want to lose the businesses there already and officials would like to attract more companies to the west side.
Losing Sparkle, for instance, would be a blow to the neighborhood because it's the only supermarket serving the southwest side of town, Keys said.
Officials attending the press conference included Keys; Mayor Hank Angelo; Presley Gillespie, vice president of Second National Bank; and Joe Shafran, president of Paran management.
The city's Community Development money is backing the loan from Second National for the plaza's makeover, including parking lot repairs, landscaping and new entranceways.
A number of banks declined to help out with a loan, but Gillespie said Second National was willing to step up to the plate because of its commitment to community revitalization.
Angelo said the city is aggressively pursuing economic development because it wants to be known as a business friendly community.
Spent: Cleaning up the west side has become a priority of the city, Angelo said, explaining that about $14 million has been put into the various other enhancement projects there.
The city is also touting the cleanup of west side neighborhoods and individual properties to help attract business.
Keys said the dilapidated plaza is one of the first things out-of-town businesspeople see when they come into Warren via West Market Street.
If they're in town to consider Warren for a business relocation, Keys said, he thinks they make up their minds about Warren before they even get downtown.
The city is also hoping to get housing plans under way at Alden Estates, the west side neighborhood where the crime-ridden Westlawn projects once stood. A preliminary study of the land is complete, Keys said, noting that construction has not begun.
The city has developed a new small-loan program to assist businesses in cleaning up their properties along West Market. A low-interest loan is available for commercial properties looking to restore facades.