Pataskala could have a hole in the downtown streetscape for a while until officials determine what to do with the space left by two buildings demolished after a recent fire.

Pataskala could have a hole in the downtown streetscape for a while until officials determine what to do with the space left by two buildings demolished after a recent fire.

"There is still a level of shock and dismay about the fire itself and the loss of a historic building," Pataskala planner Dianne Harris said.

The March 7 fire damaged the buildings at 337, 341 and 345 S. Main St. (state Route 310) in Pataskala and caused the Licking County Building Code Department to order the two buildings to be demolished.

Now that both are gone, the downtown block has a hole and an ugly wall on one side of the building that remains.

Pataskala's ad hoc committee on housing revitalization met March 26 and talked about what's left.

Harris said the committee discussed the building that housed "Ella's Flowers," which abutted the buildings that were torn down.

"In the short term, the Ella's Flowers building side should at least be cleaned and painted -- better -- have a mural installed," Harris said.

The committee also talked about future uses for the vacant site, including ways to use some or all of it for a park or more downtown parking or to rebuild shops on the site.

The city's planning and zoning commission already has discussed the downtown business zoning regulations and what they would need to consider if the property owners want to rebuild on the site.

"I believe that even in the absence of strong design guidelines, they (the planning commission) do have the authority to condition new development upon consistency with the architectural character of the existing downtown," Harris said.

Harris said she doesn't anticipate any building applications being filed soon, though.

In the interim, different committees and commissions are expected to talk about what uses would be appropriate for the site.

At least one proposal that's been circling around downtown involves the old grain elevator, which was exposed by the loss of the two Main Street buildings.

Harris said people have said that elevator would make a great restaurant, which actually was a proposal made in 1990 by a previous city committee studying downtown.

Harris said the existing committee agrees with that recommendation.

After hearing discussions during the committee meetings and during planning commission meetings, Harris said, she is unsure what her final recommendation for the property would be.

"I will probably agree that all the above would be good for the downtown, but this is a relatively small site, so it can't be all things for all people," she said. "And I want us to be open to creative proposals in the future, but I do feel pretty strongly that there ought to be some rebuilding to maintain downtown's 'critical mass' as a business district."

lwince@thisweeknews.com