All About Richland, Downtown

Mansfield Rising Plan: Considering Easton Part One

25 Mar , 2019  

Here’s an intriguing question – could a development which is barely 20 years old provide relevant lessons which could be used in another location which has been around for over 200 years?

Over the next two days, we’ll share some ideas on that topic.

At the start of this month, the Richland County Foundation released the Mansfield Rising Plan, a blueprint for downtown revitalization in Mansfield.

Since March 1, “action items” from the Mansfield Rising Plan have been profiled daily on Richland Source. As of Sunday, some 24 items have been shared, ranging from free downtown wi-fi and branding to re-developing the large vacant municipal parking lot along East Fourth Street and building a community center.

The Mansfield Rising Plan can be read in its entirety here.

During that same period, we here at 1812Blockhouse have considered the same plan from a couple of different angles. Our first post on the plan can be read here. We recently looked at Newark, an Ohio downtown of comparable size to Mansfield, which has achieved a measure of success with its recent revitalization efforts. That post can be read here.

Today we look from another angle, a direction which might not immediately come to mind. Look closely, however, and you might find more than a few things that connect downtown Mansfield with one of America’s most successful retail lifestyle centers – a location which is about 75 to 90 minutes south of downtown Mansfield.

We’re talking about Easton, also known as Easton Town Center.

Opening in 1999, Easton is described this way by Wikipedia, “The core buildings and streets that comprise Easton are intended to look like a self-contained “town,” reminiscent of American towns and cities in the early-to-mid 20th century. Included in the design are fountains, streets laid out in a grid pattern surrounded by a continuous loop, and metered storefront parking.”

The designers of Easton were masterful in that regard. Buildings were designed with styles and architectural detailing suggesting they date from the late 19th and early 20th century. To give even more of a period and permanent feel, second and third floor windows on brand-new structures were bricked in with slightly different color bricks, suggesting that openings formerly held actual windows.

In essence, we’re talking about building an Ohio downtown from scratch in the middle of a field. A downtown, mind you, that attracts over 25 million visitors a year.

There’s no question that Easton has been a phenomenon of national note. In 2011, Easton Town Center was even listed in the Top Five Most Innovative Malls in the World list, according to the trade publication Inside Retail. Its current 1,800,000 square feet of retail is currently being expanded with a whopping one-half billion dollar extension.

So is there anything that downtown Mansfield learn from Easton as the former sets out to revitalize itself? Are there any ways in which Mansfield actually has an advantage over the wonder child to the south? We’ll continue this post tomorrow and provide some answers to those questions.

Photo: Easton/Creative Commons License

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