BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — Maumee Mayor Richard Carr presented an optimistic outlook for 2021 in his annual State of the City address.
He delivered a speech at the January 12 Maumee Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Due to COVID restrictions, his address was livestreamed on Zoom to chamber members. Prior to delivering his remarks on camera, Carr discussed the future plans currently in the works.
“I am excited to move forward. We have a lot of success going on,” he said.
With a focus on new economic development, improve-ments to streetscapes and traffic movements, and favorable city budget estimates, Carr says he is looking forward to what the next several years will bring to the city of Maumee.
A significant amount of focus and enthusiasm is centered on proposed changes in the uptown Maumee area, beginning with Conant Street and a new traffic pattern, which allows on-street parking and a greater pedestrian-friendly area. Late last year, council approved plans to reconfigure Conant Street, by re-marking the road to allow the on-street parking, left-hand turns in both directions and safer crosswalks and sidewalks. Council will eventually consider legislation to provide funding that would make those temporary changes permanent.
In addition to changes to traffic lanes and parking along Conant Street, new entrance signs have also been proposed to not only designate and brand the uptown district but also to welcome new visitors and those driving into uptown Maumee. Arches, similar to those in the Columbus Short North district, will be implemented as well as both horizontal and vertical signs, depending on locations, along the Anthony Wayne Trail and River Road.
The new design, created by Margo Puffenburger, of m.e. puff design, depicts the natural elements of stone and water with a simple, modern and legible script of the city’s name.
New drawings were also unveiled as part of a vision for revitalizing efforts in uptown Maumee. The drawings symbolize a number of “wish list” items that could be implemented, such as a new community building near Union Elementary that would house restrooms, a common area and a dog park. The plan also includes new uptown residential lofts, office space, a microbrewery and outdoor gathering spaces for dining.
Council is also expected to approve DORA legislation, or a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area, in the uptown district. The DORA would allow patrons age 21 and older to purchase an alcoholic beverage from an approved, liquor-permitted establishment, then sip and stroll within the boundaries, which would fall within a significant portion of the uptown area. That approval could come as early as this month, Carr said.
“We are really trying to revitalize uptown Maumee to make it a destination place,” Carr said.
Monnette’s is also still on track to build a new market in the 200 block of Conant Street; however, further discussions remain ongoing regarding new building concepts, he said.
In Maumee and across the country, the pandemic posed significant challenges throughout much of 2020, forcing city staff to change the way they conduct city business and forcing changes in work schedules. Last spring, the service staff began working on staggered shifts to reduce the number of people working together. In November, a staggered schedule was also implemented for the administration staff with their workday split between home and office or working completely remotely. Meetings have also been conducted by Zoom.
In spite of that, and so many other challenges posed by the pandemic, the city anticipates ending the year with a budget surplus.
“Based upon everything we went through, we are going to finish the year amazingly well,” Carr said.
Cutting nearly $1.2 million in expenses while attaining over $2 million in unexpected federal and state COVID funds played a significant role in those projections, he said. The reductions were made through attrition, combining management positions and eliminating overtime pay.
“I don’t think that anybody out there can say they saw any change in the level of service in our community. I think we just worked a whole lot smarter in 2020,” he said.
On the economic front, Maumee anticipates many projects. For example, The Toledo Clinic is proceeding with a cancer center and women’s health center at Side Cut Crossings, which is a new development off the Anthony Wayne Trail between Monclova Road and Ford Street. The center should open sometime this year, the mayor said.
City leaders are also working with Arrowhead Park board members to make needed zone changes in order to create efficient business collaborations and partnerships. Zoning changes have also been approved near The Shops at Fallen Timbers to enable more residential development, which is intended to attract new business to that area.
City leaders are also in discussions with Lucas County leaders regarding the Lucas County Recre-ation Center property. Discussions are planned on mixed-use development to attract housing opportunities while keeping the athletic facilities currently in place.
“We are in the preliminary stages of trying to work with that,” Carr said.
Next year, a $9.5 million safety project along the Anthony Wayne Trail from Ford Street through the South Detroit intersection will include a resurfacing project and intersection improvements. In addition, new landscaping, lighting and a new bike trail are being discussed as improvements along that corridor, all of which are designed to create a thriving business and residential area.
In 2023, the construction of a new I-475 interchange is expected at Illinois Avenue, which will also bring significant economic development to that area of Maumee, Carr said.
“That will create economic development opportunities along Illinois Avenue while providing a direct route to the airport. It will also alleviate traffic in Arrowhead Park for their employees at the Dussel interchange.”
Looking ahead, Carr believes better days are on the horizon for Maumee.
“My philosophy has been that if you keep a clean city, a safe city and you operate it financially responsibly while working with local schools and businesses, that is part of an overall plan,” Carr said. “With new signs, arches and other beautification plans, people who come through will get excited about the city.”