Building a Better Belmont. That was the focus of a Liberty Township trustees meeting this afternoon. It gave members of the public a chance to weigh in on plans to improve a busy stretch of Belmont Avenue. Spearheaded by township trustees-- they tell me this is a must for improving safety in the area. 

"It needs to be clean, it needs to be safe, it needs to look a little newer," said Jack Kravitz, former Kravitz Deli Owner and Chairman of 'Building a Better Belmont' group. 

From enhancing safety in the area for pedestrians to revamping the road's aesthetics, one mile of the heavily traveled Belmont Avenue will soon get a facelift.

"Pedestrians want to cross the street to go to Handels, or they might want to cross the street and go to Station Square or the park. So, we're trying to make it safe, convenient, and pleasant to walk around," said Arnie Clebone, Liberty Twp. Trustee. 

Representatives from an architectural, engineering, and planning consultant met with the public Wednesday afternoon to answer people’s questions about a project to “reimagine” Liberty Township’s main business corridor.

Township officials and the Akron-based GPD Group spoke on what’s being called the “Building a Better Belmont", a project to make the one-mile stretch of the road more user-friendly for people who may not be driving a car or truck.

From adding sidewalks to installing additional lighting between Liberty Street and the township's Giant Eagle, Liberty's Police Chief said this will only improve safety in the area.

"Its important to look at things like lighting, crosswalks and sidewalks," Chief Merolo said. "We show a strong police presence on Belmont Ave. and those all go together."

"You get a positive and negative [reaction]," said Devon Stanley, Liberty Twp. Trustee. "The positive is people would like to slow down the traffic there and make it friendlier for people to get across. But there are some negatives and that's just the safety concern there is a high volume of traffic there."

Back in 2019, Shivani Bhatt was fatally struck while crossing Belmont on foot. This project works to ensure no pedestrian fatalities happen again.

"Those are the types of things that make you want to investigate an opportunity to make it safer," Stanley said.

An application for a planning grant submitted by trustees earlier claimed that currently there is little regard for hotel guests, bicyclists, or nearby residents walking along or across the Belmont Avenue to patronize restaurants, grocery stores, salons, a medical facility, or the township park.

The application described the corridor as “non-descript, lacking cohesion and unappealing and a place you would want to circumvent.”

Local business owners say the beautification of Belmont will only draw more business. "The more people that are going past your door, the more people are going to stop in," Kravitz said. "The idea is to get Belmont to be seen as a friendly place to be."

Since the I-80 interchange is part of the corridor, trustees said it is often a visitor's only impression of Liberty and the Mahoning Valley, which may be the deciding factor in choosing a place for education, a job, or starting businesses not only in the township but elsewhere in the Valley.

In addition, the Belmont Corridor Safety Study conducted in 2016 found that the intersection of Belmont Ave at Churchill Hubbard Rd experienced 39 crashes in a three-year period.

Backers said they want to transform Belmont Avenue into a destination for dining, entertainment, culture, retail, and healthcare.

The project is being paid for by a WRTA and Ohio Department of Transportation grant and the township plans to apply for more funding in the future. The first phase of the project is expected to begin this summer.