Almost three years ago, Defiance Mayor Mike McCann hosted a public meeting on the city’s eastside seeking input on his initiative to improve the neighborhood.
McCann’s hope — advanced not long after he took office in January 2016 — is that the Ottawa Avenue corridor can become more appealing as a southern “gateway” into Defiance.
That effort — which includes plans ranging from new traffic infrastructure to blight removal, drainage work and park improvements — will cost approximately $4.5 million in city, state and federal money. Some of that work is coming to fruition, or soon will be, thanks primarily to some $3.6 million in grant money secured through state sources.
Among the recent developments is the purchase of the former Compo Park — privately held land between Karnes and Ottawa avenues — from the Compo family. The cost was $150,000 with a $75,000 private donation paying for half and city capital improvements money covering the balance.
The donors have requested anonymity for now.
“It was an extremely generous donation,” said McCann. “They knew at the time we were struggling to justify the expenditure, and they stepped up and made it a much easier decision for us. I hope that someday they will allow us to give them appropriate recognition.”
Under the city’s ownership, Compo Park has been renamed East Side Park.
The city has secured a variety of state grants to upgrade this park, according to city planner Niki Warncke.
For example, an Ohio Department of Natural Resources grant will be used for a new park shelterhouse while a state community development block grant (CDBG) will cover the cost of new playgrounds and equipment, and a new parking lot. That work is scheduled for 2020.
In fact, next year will be a busy one in the neighborhood.
Besides the East Side Park upgrades, the city will use grant funds to install a new water line on Myrna Street and new storm sewers between Ottawa Avenue and Thurman Street, between Thurman and Ayersville Avenues, Warncke indicated.
Too, a new sidewalk is planned next year on Blaine Avenue and other areas extending to the refurbished park.
According to city engineer Melinda Sprow, Myrna Street will be rebuilt, while resurfacing is planned on Blaine, Thurman, Haig and Logan streets.
Meanwhile, the concrete portion of Karnes Avenue — between Ottawa Avenue and Summit Street — will be rebuilt and finished with a new asphalt surface next year. Drainage improvements and sidewalk installation will be part of that project as well.
CDBG funds have been granted to help make the project possible.
The following year (2021), the city plans to build a traffic roundabout at Ottawa and Cleveland avenues.
City officials opted to build a roundabout there to address the frequency of vehicle crashes at the intersection. Presently, east-west traffic on Cleveland must stop, while traffic on Ottawa is allowed to proceed through the intersection.
In conjunction with that project, Warncke explained, grant funds will be used to build a sidewalk along Cleveland Avenue, between Evan Drive and the roundabout.
While commitments for each aspect of the plan for the eastside infrastructure improvements are almost all in place, the city is still seeking grant funds for a multi-use path along Ottawa Avenue, McCann noted.
Additionally, the city also has tried to remove or improve blighted properties in the corridor, and this has produced mixed results.
For example, McCann’s administration — with city council’s support — has expended funds for the removal of a large blighted building next to the CSX Railroad crossing on Ottawa Avenue and demolished an old machine shop on Blaine Street.
A trailer also was removed on Ottawa Avenue, but city officials have not yet succeeded in removing another run-down one on Rulf Street.
Speaking generally about the progress he envisioned three years ago for the eastside, McCann seemed pleased with the progress so far. But he expressed disappointment that funds have not yet been secured to build the aforementioned multi-use path, while some blighted properties remain.
“The only thing that disappoints me is we don’t have the connection between the (planned) roundabout and CSX Railroad tracks, and we are probably not as far along on removing some of the blighted properties,” he said.