MANSFIELD – Members of the Shelby Community Improvement Corporation met Tuesday with the Richland County Commissioners to outline a three-phase, $3.2 million Main Street corridor improvement plan. Shelby CIC said the plan will help make downtown Shelby more attractive to residents and outside businesses, and bring young people back to the community.
Officials also announced during the meeting that the Shelby Foundation has contributed $250,000 to help pay for part of the project costs.
“I’m proud to announce the Shelby Foundation kick-started the fundraising phase for a Black Fork Plaza portion of the project,” said foundation director Carrie Kemerer. “That is the largest gift in foundation history.”
Plan centers on Main Street
The overall plan was created by EDGE Group, landscape architects and development consultants in Columbus, following focus group meetings earlier this year. It centers on Main Street — between Gamble Street, Broadway Street and Mansfield Avenue — and includes first phase streetscape changes and enhancements on Main Street, a second phase expansion of the area around the new Black Fork Commons, and longer-range plans for stream restoration that include creation of a Black Fork shared use trail.
Cody Albert, CIC member and marketing manager for the OhioHealth Mansfield and Shelby Hospitals, said officials originally directed EDGE to start with the idea of improving the area of Main Street between the hospital and the local American Legion. The area was narrowed to two main intersections in central downtown following feedback from the focus groups.
“We also have another major area where the Black Fork crosses Main and luckily there is green space on both sides there,” he said. “We are building on a great infrastructure that was added in 2014 and this infrastructure works great for some of our community events and it’s a great platform for this plan to build upon.”
Plans for the area call for creation of a café plaza just north of the park, along the river, that will include a large fireplace, interactive “pop” fountains, a pergola and enhancements to a nearby shelter.
“The fountain is a smaller scale, being sensitive to Seltzer Pool being a real success and not wanting to take away from that,” Albert said. “It’s an added recreation piece, not a replacement.”
The draft plan called for restrooms to be built during the final stage of the project, but officials said the construction plans are being “tweaked” and the restrooms will be built sooner.
In addition to the Black Fork Commons Park green space and the river corridor, the focus groups also listed intact architecture and a “street wall,” existing successful creative building re-use and a passion and momentum for change, preservation and revitalization as additional strengths of downtown Shelby. Weaknesses included the condition of the building stock, the history of flooding on the Black Fork, a lack of specific anchor businesses and truck traffic.
The main streetscape plan includes pedestrian improvements and intersection treatments that indicate where the main roads are; and bridge enhancements, such as an arch and curb bump outs, that will serve as a traffic control while taking away two parking spaces.
“One of the big pieces we heard in the focus groups was negatives about truck traffic and going to Arcelor Mittal, and unfortunately we were not able to re-route that,” Albert said. “From a psychology perspective, the bump outs slow the semi drivers as they are coming through downtown. They feel it is a restricted space.”
Trees, landscaping and lighting
Other street improvements will include trees, landscaping and lighting between the target area towards the hospital on the west and the American Legion on the east, furniture similar to that in the commons park and unified directional and identification signs. Officials hope the sign designs can be used county-wide as part of the area re-branding plans.
The final phase will be stream restoration, which will put the banks back to a more natural grade with plantings on them. There also will be a pedestrian bridge, a playground, parking improvements, multi-purpose fields, a bike path and possible use of the Central Elementary School gym.
Commissioners chairman Tony Vero questioned whether there would be any problems with federal agencies and regulations on river-related projects.
“We are relying on EDGE Group to help us navigate that process,” Albert said. “It’s not restricting or modifying the river, but we’re restoring it to its natural position, which historically is not how it’s been handled. It’s trying to put it back to how it naturally should be.”
The Main Street streetscape portion of the program is already funded with the City of Shelby committing $240,000 in city funds as a 20% match to a $960,000 grant secured through Richland County Regional Planning. The CIC is seeking a total of $750,000 in foundation grants, which includes the Shelby Foundation commitment and $350,000 in private donations for the plaza development. City funds and grants will cover the future trail and stream restoration efforts.
The Shelby CIC did not ask the county for any funds but the commissioners did unanimously approve a motion of support for the revitalization plans.
“I know what a streetscape project did for Bellville and this is so much more, obviously” said commissioner and former mayor of Bellville Darrell Banks.
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