Since March 1, “action items” from the Mansfield Rising downtown revitalization plan have been profiled daily on Richland Source.
As of Sunday, some 17 items have been shared, ranging from free downtown wi-fi, volunteer coordination, and branding to re-developing the large vacant municipal parking lot along East Fourth Street between North Main and North Diamond.
Still to come this month are items related to parks and green space; looking at alternative transportation options such as bikes and trolleys; public art; enhancing safety through a downtown watch program; and others.
Mansfield is certainly not alone in its desire to being renewed economic vitality to its central city. Nor is it different than other Ohio cities its size in terms of challenges to accomplish that goal. Like other so-called “legacy cities” in Ohio and the Midwest, Mansfield has a downtown which contains a collection of commercial buildings constructed over 50 years ago, surrounded by former industrial areas and by former residential neighborhoods that have seen dramatic disinvestment.
A handful of these cities have been able to stem the decline. One community of roughly comparable size is Newark, which is on the other side of a downtown revitalization initiative that saw a total investment of nearly $100 million into its core blocks.
In an effort which received the American Society of Highway Engineers’ Great Lakes Region Project of the Year Award, the work in Newark actually began below ground. A large-scale sewer project was set to tear up downtown streets; local civic leaders soon saw this as an opportunity to re-invent what was above ground as well. Traffic patterns were changed; roundabouts and new sidewalks arrived.
This change was a catalyst for more public and substantial private investment. The $30 million public project was joined by $60 million in public and private investment. This included, among other improvements:
- The Canal Market District, a $5 million effort with improvements to a parking garage, alleys converted to pedestrian use, burial of power lines, green spaces, and with a permanently structured open air farmer’s market at its heart. Some 2,000 visitors a week now travel to this market for the best from local food producers.
- Renovation of several historic commercial buildings, including a new music and entertaining venue.
- More than 60 new residential units and dozens of new retail operations;
- A new downtown medical facility;
- Five new signature restaurants on the courthouse square.
Here are three looks at the Newark project, each from a different perspective:
Newark Making Historic $80 Million Investment in its Future – Columbus Underground
Downtown Revitalization Plan Delivers Better Roads and Path to Growth – OHM Advisors
Newark Downtown Renovation Project – Ohio Development Services Agency
Later this week, we will continue a look at additional downtowns that have seen some success in similar projects. We’ll also look around the area of north central Ohio to see how other communities are involved with downtown revitalization.
Photo: Public Domain