Willoughby mayor shares updates on housing, trails and parks projects – News-Herald
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Willoughby Western Lake County Chamber of Commerce hosted representatives from its communities on March 8 to discuss “the state of the cities.” This is part of a series of articles detailing the speeches that were delivered.
In addition to the return of the summer events that everyone has been waiting for in the past, several projects are on the horizon for Willoughby.
“We are open for business,” Mayor Robert Fiala said during the recent State of the Cities meeting at the Normandy Party Center in Wickliffe. “This summer, all the events that everyone expects will return. We’ve added Boat Races, a collaboration with Eastlake, and we have sunset concerts in Osborne Park. We are adding one more concert this year. They had phenomenal success.
As for the projects, in 2021 the former Memorial Junior High School was renovated into corporate offices by Then Design Architecture, a $5 million investment in the heart of downtown Willoughby, Fiala said.
Most recently, Liberty Development secured the rights to develop the former Union High School, an $11 million development that will include 30 market-priced apartments in Willoughby’s Public Square, as well as 19 townhouses for sale in fee. simple.
Additionally, what began as a 102-home development project that would preserve approximately 13 acres of wetlands has turned into a massive conservation project developed by Mentor’s ProBuilt Homes, the mayor told the audience.
“It’s along Highway 84, south of Andrews Osborne,” he said. “(ProBuilt) asked for a rezoning, they were rejected and the project reduced to 91 units. We went back to the drawing board. Thanks to our planning commission, and more specifically Councilor (Ken) Kary, we negotiated to reduce the project to 51 houses. In this process, we save 26 acres of property that will be deeded as conservation protected.
Willoughby is currently working with the Western Land Conservancy to acquire additional properties for preservation purposes, Fiala said. If successful, the city will consolidate approximately 200 acres of property which will be protected by a conservation easement.
“It provides a great connection to what we hope will be the Chagrin River Trail, which will connect Willoughby Hills to Eastlake and Lake Erie,” he said. “We would like to see a conservation trail with two access points – Daniels Park, a bridge there, a trail and a second bridge to Todd Field.”
The city received a $600,000 grant two years ago to put a trail in Todd Field and start an amphitheater project if successful with acquiring the property, Fiala said. This conservation project is also an opportunity for educational experiences.
“What we would have is an environmental science laboratory. The program would be co-developed and co-sponsored by Andrews Osborne Academy and Willoughby,” Fiala said. “Not only do we have 200 acres of conservation, we now have a program that would not just be for Andrews Osborne students, but all school districts, private and public.”
The future of Willoughby’s Osborne Park and its lakefront remains a priority. The reimagining of the park was a direct result of erosion over the years, Fiala previously told the News-Herald.
The park and its lakeside will be shaped by the city and SmithGroup. The first concept is a panoramic plan, which would include a lake-facing community space, expansive terraced lawns with stepped seating, a multi-purpose building with flexible event space, and a stepped lawned beach backdrop.
The second concept proposed by SmithGroup is a plan of coves with a view of the breakwater, a bluffing meadow, a toilet building with adjoining pergola and pebble and sandy beaches. The project will take about five or six years, but will be carried out in different groups.
Meanwhile, the former Burgers-n-Beer, 4027 Erie St., will be renovated into the Social Tavern, which represents a $1 million investment in downtown Willoughby. At the former West End YMCA site, an Aldi grocery store is being built and an iconic Willoughby script structure that could potentially be a selfie spot in Willoughby town center is being built.
“We hope to see it installed within the next two months,” Fiala said.