Redevelopment of the Grove City town center will take "multiple small successes" rather than a "super big project," said a city planner and architect.

Redevelopment of the Grove City town center will take "multiple small successes" rather than a "super big project," said a city planner and architect.

Frank Elmer, the planner who worked with city officials to develop a town center plan in both 1987 and 2008, answered resident questions and presented his philosophy for redeveloping the town center during a special Grove City Council meeting Jan. 26.

He also spoke to council in November 2008 after the completion of his most recent town center plan.

Elmer is a principal partner of Columbus-based Lincoln Street Studio.

He said "small, dense and local" are the key characteristics to redevelopment. City officials should invest in infrastructure and change zoning regulations that would create an urban neighborhood in the town center by increasing the residential density of the area, improving sidewalks and adding many small parks.

Elmer said although the plan is more than a year old, it is still current, especially in light of an economic recession and restructuring of the American economy.

In order to the implement the plan, city officials, business and property owners, as well as residents in the area will need to combine their efforts, Elmer said.

"We need to pull together," he said.

The crux of Elmer's plan revolves around a quarter-mile radius area centered by the intersection of Broadway and Park Street called the "green frame." By improving the green frame with sidewalks, many small parks and what Elmer called "land assembly," developers would rush to Grove City to build houses.

Elmer said his plan would cost about $8-million if it were done all at once. Improvements to the green frame, however, could be done "a little at a time," he said.

The improvements do not include land acquisition costs.

"Make it so ... cool that way, developers are going to say, 'Oh, man, all I have to do is the housing,'" Elmer said.

Once the houses are built and people move in, retailers will follow, Elmer said.

He said town center redevelopment also will require a town center economic development director, initially funded by the city, to help a board of trustees for a nonprofit town center organization prioritize green frame improvements and "create excitement" for developers.

"In my experience nothing happens unless you get off your butt and do something," Elmer said. "Nobody's been doing that."

Mayor Richard "Ike" Stage said he was "taken aback" by Elmer's statement. He said his administration has expanded a community reinvestment area, offering property tax abatements on improvements in the town center, and improved the Broadway entrance to Windsor Park.

Windsor Park is not included in Elmer's green frame.

"Well, Ike," that's not much activity in three years," Elmer said. "What I'm suggesting has not been done. There is no economic development director for this city."

About 50 residents and city officials could ask questions during the meeting anonymously through cards, which were handed to and read by the council clerk Tami Kelly.

Many questions focused on the lumberyard redevelopment project. The project was a plan by city officials to revitalize the town center by creating a shopping and learning destination in the 3.53-acre, triangular parcel located behind City Hall, 4035 Broadway.

"I was under the impression that the lumberyard project is over," Elmer said.

Mo Dioun, developer with Gahanna-based Stonehenge Co., attended the meeting. He said he and city officials "have been working diligently" on the project since Stage asked Dioun to reduce the size of the project in the fall last year.

The lumberyard project, which originally had a price tag of $16-million for the city, was reduced to $9-million.

Elmer also was asked about a planned university partnership of seven universities that have worked with Stage's administration to bring a "center of learning" to the town center area, either in a new building or renovated building.

Elmer said the university partnership "is a good thing," but it won't spur retail development.

"If the idea is that the university will guarantee retail, I don't think that's true," Elmer said.

In interview after the meeting, Stage said he disagrees with Elmer; he thinks the university partnership, which is expected have about 700 students by 2011, will create some demand for retail.

Stage, however, said he agrees with Elmer's plan, even when it was completed in 1987. He added that city officials "are reviewing the whole arrangement with Mo (Dioun)" and Stonehenge.

Stage said legislation pertaining to the arrangement with Stonehenge will be on the city council agenda Feb. 1.

The mayor said he agrees with Elmer's idea to create an urban neighborhood and a position for a town center economic development director.

"We need an owner and a director of the whole initiative," Stage said. "We want a cheerleader, someone that eats, sleeps and breathes the Grove City town center."

He said enough organizations are focused on the redevelopment of the town center. They need a leader.

"It needs a focus, new energy," Stage said. "And we all need to be on the same page."

Council president Ted Berry government agreed that an urban neighborhood would spur development.

"Government doesn't create jobs; businesses create jobs," he said. "We're all trying to work together towards a common plan to foster economic development."