Economic, infrastructure growth top 'Bula's 2020 plans

Many positive things are expected to happen in Ashtabula this year, including construction on a new, 26-room riverfront hotel in the Ashtabula Harbor. The four-story Riverbend Hotel will be built at the corner of West Sixth Street and Goodwill Drive and feature a rooftop wine bar.

ASHTABULA — Supporting new business and the city’s infrastructure needs will be the major focus for officials in 2020.

Construction will begin on a new, 26-room riverfront hotel in the Ashtabula Harbor. The four-story Riverbend Hotel will be built at the corner of West Sixth Street and Goodwill Drive.

“There are a lot of great things happening in Ashtabula,” City Manager Jim Timonere said. “We are really excited about this project.”

Ashtabula native Todd A. Canter, who now lives in Baltimore, Maryland, proposed the idea of an upscale hotel with family suites facing the river. The hotel will include a first-floor wine bar, conference room, fitness center and two connecting family suites. The second through fourth floors will have 24 large suites facing northeast, as well as a kitchenette and view of Lake Erie. The rooftop will have a wine bar serving drinks from local wineries.

City Council President John Roskovics said he’s excited about the hotel and how it will draw more people to the historic Ashtabula Harbor.

 

Pig iron plant

Construction will begin on the $474 million pig iron plant, Petmin USA, at the Kinder Morgan Pinney Dock facility, which will bring several hundred construction jobs as well as more than 100 permanent skilled jobs when completed, Timonere said.

Ashtabula bested 13 other sites across the United States and Canada for the plant because of its access to shipping, rail and interstate as well as wastewater treatment, raw water and natural gas.

“People are coming to Ashtabula looking for housing because of the pig iron plant,” Timonere said.

Nodular pig iron, which would be produced at the plant, is primarily used in speciality metallic castings found in cars, trucks, trains, mining and construction equipment, oil wells, appliances, pipes, hydrants, wind turbines, nuclear plants, medical devices, defense products, toys and more, according to Petmin’s website.

Petmin USA’s manufacturing facility in Ashtabula would produce an estimated 425,000 tons of pig iron annually that would then be shipped to the company’s customers.

The plant could be up and running by 2021, officials said.

 

Ashtabula Harbor

City officials will continue to work with the Lift Bridge Community Association in the Ashtabula Harbor and, at the same time, work with the Ashtabula Downtown Development Association on plans for Main Avenue, including a focused code enforcement effort to bring home and business owners into compliance.

Bridge Street got a major shot in the arm in 2018, winning America’s Main Street contest, and hosting the Wine and Walleye Festival, Timonere said.

A new “selfie sign” was erected by the lift bridge last fall.

Several upscale, new townhouses are being built and purchased on Bridge Street, adding a new dimension of housing in the city, Roskovics said.

“I look forward to the popular Wine and Walleye Festival again this year and hope to watch the fireworks in 2021 from the rooftop wine bar of the River Bend Hotel,” he said.

The city park board presented its goals and plans for 2020, which include finishing the refurbishment of Cornelius Park’s fountain and possibly redoing the tennis courts next to the Harbor Library, said Earl Tucker, board chairman.

Roskovics also said he would like to see the Walnut Boulevard courts repaired.

 

Property

and paving

So far, in conjunction with the Ashtabula County Land Bank, the city has demolished more than 300 homes in the city limits during Timonere’s tenure.

“The Neighborhood Initiative Program funds have been a great example of several agencies working together to make the entire county benefit from this program,” he said. “These funds have now been expended with the bulk of the $4.3 million spent in the city. Other programs are in the works and we hope the state will announce additional funding for land banks this year. Without Treasurer [Dawn] Cragon pushing for a county land bank, these properties would still be a blight on our county.”

Local leaders and officials have all “worked tirelessly” to acquire these homes and bring them down, he said.

Roskovics hopes 2020 brings the demolition of more structures, specifically the former St. John’s School and Benedict’s Market, both on Station Avenue.

Council Vice President Michael Speelman praised city and county officials for “doing a good job” of using land bank money.

City streets should start looking better, thanks to November voters who passed an income tax levy to address street improvements. 

The 4-mill, five-year street paving levy will generate about $750,000 annually and cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $140 per year. All the money will be used strictly for paving, Timonere said.

“The paving levy’s $750,000 a year is a game changer,” he said. “[Due to a tight budget] we put no paving program together last year.”

Timonere said typically the city spends between $350,000 and $400,000 annually on street paving. But the money doesn’t stretch far, typically covering only five to seven streets per year and that doesn’t count big stretches of major thoroughfares.

 

Looking ahead

Roskovics said he’s excited about the work council did last year and what’s coming up in the new year.

“I think we sent a clear message that we are interested and willing to accommodate businesses and growth within the city,” he said. “I hope this continues to resonate in 2020. Council has been willing to address some long neglected issues and working to adopt policies that will improve our city.”

Recycling in Wards 1 and 2 did a lot for the appearance of streets, with every residence having a cart for garbage and a cart for recyclables. Timonere said he hopes to bring curbside recycling to the entire city.

The manager also supports the new 55-and-older apartment complex coming to the Mount Carmel property this year. He said Ashtabula has the perfect combination for growth at this time.

“The baby boomers are leaving their houses for 55 and older communities,” he said. “Younger people can take advantage of Ashtabula’s affordable housing.”

Upscale housing, such as the new condos on Bridge Street, are also available to newcomers.

Timonere said he is optimistic, citing not only new businesses, but new owners of some old businesses. The Borsukoff | Neece Real Estate Group purchased the property known historically as Castle Block on Center Street and the former Carlisle building on Main Avenue with plans to redevelop both sites into apartments and retail space.

Roskovics said there is a lot of enthusiasm heading into 2020.

“I think there is a positive sense/vibe in our city and I would like to continue to build upon those good feelings,” he said. “I like to say, ‘Ashtabula is a verb, with lots of activity and good occurring.’”

 

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