LIMA — In an effort to rejuvenate downtown, the City of Lima plans to seek $10.5 million in federal funding in order to update underground infrastructure and streetscaping in a group of 20 blocks east of Main Street.
If the city receives the grant, the plan calls for street updates — such as improved decorative lighting and parking bump-outs — in the area hedged by Wayne Street on the north, Main Street on the west, Elm Street in the south and the railroad tracks near Central Avenue on the east. Additionally, some major ongoing projects within that area would also receive funds. They include renovation of the Main and Market street intersection, development of the Greater Lima Region Park & Amphitheater and replacement of much of the underground pipelines in the area.
“We know a couple years ago that we had a major break in the square. So we would expect with this project actually to be renewing and replacing what are actually over 100-year-old piping systems for the water system,” Mayor David Berger said.
Berger said many of these projects had already been in the works as part of the ongoing effort to revitalize the city’s downtown, but the city administration began grouping them into a federal grant application in May when it heard about the additional allocation of $1.5 billion into the economic development assistance (EDA) program via the CARES Act.
According to the federal program’s website, EDA’s mission is “to lead the federal economic development agenda” by working “directly with communities to catalyze locally developed strategies to build capacity for economic development based on local business conditions and needs.”
“It’s an exciting opportunity,” Berger said. “We’re hopeful that the grants will be decided on yet this year.”
The funds will require matching dollars from the city, roughly $4 million, if the federal government awards the grant. Berger said since these projects have already been on the city’s agenda, $3 million of the city’s water fund has already been set aside for underground infrastructure improvements and $1 million will be available via an Ohio Department of Transportation safety grant already awarded to the city to enhance the Main and Market streets intersection.
Rob Nelson, owner of The Met in downtown Lima, said he was appreciative of the city’s efforts to update the surrounding area. If federal funding is approved, streetscaping outside of The Met and Nelson’s brewery initiative at the corner of North Street and Central Avenue would be updated.
“I think this tells us one thing: Lima’s destiny, it’s not set. We’re on the grow, and this is exciting for us to be a part of,” Nelson said. “Our trajectory and our future is not static. It’s positive.”
Nelson highlighted a number of ongoing projects in the downtown area, naming the Rhodes State Center of Health Science Education and Innovation, Mercy Health-St. Rita Medical Center’s Graduate Medical Education Center and the Spring Street housing initiative as proof. In addition, the EDA proposal identifies a series of developments just east of the amphitheater project where incubators, retail shops, a makerspace and dog park are expected to be constructed further down the line.
Nelson’s own brewery project in the northeast corner of the downtown area is expected to begin construction by the end of the year, he said.
“From a developer’s perspective, we are giddy about the fact that the city is willing to work with us — and they’ve always been willing to work with us — to make our landscape a better place to be,” Nelson said.
Before seeking the federal grant, the city will first need Lima City Council’s approval. Berger said the plan is to have the ordinance on council’s agenda next week.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.