Park ID’d for lake­front din­ing

Grounds would re­main pub­lic along­side po­ten­tial pavil­ion use

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - Front Page - By Betsy Scott bscott@news-her­ @re­porter­betsy on Twit­ter

The dearth of din­ing op­tions along Lake Erie in Lake County has some lo­cal lead­ers think­ing out­side the box.

Men­tor city of­fi­cials are in talks with the Lake County Ohio Port and Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity about the po­ten­tial for leas­ing Men­tor Beach Park pavil­ion to a restau­rant op­er­a­tor. The prop­erty, at 7779 Lake Shore Blvd., is in Men­tor-on-the-Lake but is owned by Men­tor.

Such an at­trac­tion is among the top needs ex­pressed to Pe­ter K. Zahirsky in his ca­pac­ity as the Port Au­thor­ity’s di­rec­tor of coastal de­vel­op­ment.

“We are al­ways look­ing for new op­por­tu­ni­ties and iden­ti­fied this lo­ca­tion as one worth ex­plor­ing,” he said. “Aside from in­creas­ing the qual­ity of life for our res­i­dents, this has the po­ten­tial to cre­ate new em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties and gen­er­ate new rev­enues for the cities and county.

“The ad­di­tion of lake­front din­ing op­tions ad­vances the spirit of the Coastal

De­vel­op­ment Plans and en­hances the coastal at­trac­tive­ness of the county.”

He em­pha­sized that the re­main­der of the park would re­main open to the pub­lic.

“What we have dis­cussed is ren­o­va­tion and op­er­a­tion of the pavil­ion fa­cil­ity, par­tic­u­larly in a way that would not in­ter­fere with the en­joy­ment of the park greenspace,” he said. “At this point, all we are do­ing is restart­ing a con­ver­sa­tion and res­ur­rect­ing a con­cept that many peo­ple have dis­cussed over the years. Noth­ing has been fi­nal­ized.”

The lease would in­clude the park­ing area around the build­ing, which is of­ten rented for events. Men­tor City Coun­cil would have to ap­prove the lease agree­ment.

“We would then look for a de­vel­oper and op­er­a­tor to come in and per­form the ren­o­va­tions to trans­form the space into a restau­rant,” Zahirsky said. This, too, would be sub­ject to city ap­proval.

Men­tor-on-the-Lake lead­ers also would be con­sulted as they have zon­ing au­thor­ity over the prop­erty, pri­mar­ily used by its res­i­dents.

Men­tor-on-the-Lake Mayor David Eva is in fa­vor of re­pur­pos­ing the pavil­ion. He said po­ten­tial zon­ing changes in­clude cre­at­ing an en­ter­tain­ment district or a mixe­duse area.

“It would be good for the city as it may in­crease traf­fic for our lo­cal busi­ness own­ers,” he said. “We have many dif­fer­ent busi­nesses on An­drews Road, and this de­vel­op­ment would be right at the cor­ner of An­drews Road and Lake Shore Boule­vard. Bring­ing more peo­ple into Men­tor-on-the-Lake and po­ten­tially cre­at­ing more jobs lo­cally would be a big boost to the city.”

The Men­tor ad­min­is­tra­tion and City Coun­cil re­cently dis­cussed the mat­ter dur­ing a work ses­sion.

“It is one of our more pop­u­lar rental fa­cil­i­ties,” City Man­ager Ken Filip­iak said, not­ing that it is in use about 80 nights a year, on av­er­age.

In 2016, it gen­er­ated more than $37,000 in rev­enue. That fell to $28,400 last year, in part, be­cause a church was no longer rent­ing it on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

How­ever, the fa­cil­ity is op­er­at­ing at a loss based on main­te­nance and man­power costs. Men­tor spent about $150,000 on re­plac­ing the roof last year.

“It cer­tainly makes it eas­ier to con­sider (the restau­rant use) when it isn’t di­rectly serv­ing our res­i­dents,” Filip­iak said.

Men­tor Coun­cil­woman at large Janet Dowl­ing asked whether the rental ser­vice could be pro­vided by the city else­where.

Filip­iak said, “There might be a lot of pri­vate rentals in town that would be glad for some more busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Ward 2 Coun­cil­man Matt Dono­van said he has rented the build­ing be­fore, but sees the ad­van­tage of leas­ing the prop­erty.

“It’s a great fa­cil­ity; it’s his­tor­i­cal,” he said. “But wouldn’t it be nice to have some­thing else like that? How many places do we have to go have din­ner on the lake? Fair­port Har­bor? … We al­ways hope for more lake spots to go to. It’s not ac­ces­si­ble.”

Filip­iak said the pub­lic would still get to en­joy the site.

“Maybe just en­joy it in a dif­fer­ent way,” he said.

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