Licking County News

Pataskala redevelopment plan

City to recruit niche shops for downtown

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Pataskala City Council on Jan. 22 unanimously adopted a downtown market study and redevelopment plan for the older portion of the city on Main Street.

The plan was prepared by Boulevard Strategies consultants and the EMH&T engineering firm, both of Columbus.

City Council also unanimously approved accompanying legislation allowing City Administrator Tim Boland and the development committee to seek funding and implement the plan.

Dianne Harris, the city's planning director, said the study recommends improving infrastructure and recruiting specific businesses and development for Main Street -- also known as Hazelton-Etna Road or state Route 310 -- between Willow and Broadway streets.

Specific recommendations in the study include:

* Adding specialized retail businesses, such as ice cream shops, coffee shops, sandwich shops, consignment stores, salons, spas and an outdoor outfitter, that would complement the mix of government buildings, churches, professional office space, service-oriented businesses and retail uses in the study area.

* Adding buildings on the north side of Front Street and in key open spaces to house new businesses.

* Developing park space near the railroad tracks, expanding the veterans' park and adding seating and community gathering places.

* Studying available parking.

* Supporting museums, increasing use of the Sterling Theater and adding more cultural and arts programs.

* Improving street trees and lighting to help identify the "old village center," while maintaining preservation of the railroad and agricultural heritage of the study area.

Deb Miller, a principal with Boulevard Strategies, said wireless Internet and formation of a downtown improvement organization could also help the area develop.

Chris Boring, also a principal with Boulevard Strategies, said the planners worked with 35 local stakeholders to determine strengths and weaknesses in the study area and talked to 85 residents at the annual street fair this past summer.

Harris said residents also were asked to complete surveys posted on the city's website and were invited to various public meetings.

Boring said Pataskala doubled its population in the past 20 years and continues to expand. Demographics have changed, too, as white-collar workers now make up 65 percent of the city's population.

About 4,500 people work in the city, which, Boring said, encourages a diverse economy.

The study recommends completing infrastructure improvements in two phases, which could cost an estimated $4.3 million.

Harris said she is preparing a strategy to implement the plan, and the strategy will be presented at the next meeting of City Council's development committee.

She said the city would need to seek grant money for the improvements. She said several grants are available through national and state organizations.

The study also suggested establishing a special-improvements district. State law allows special-improvements districts to collect a tax assessment to be used for improvements in a designated area.

Harris said business owners would have to agree with the plan to make it work.

The city paid Boulevard Strategies $19,500 to complete the downtown market study and redevelopment plan. Harris said the city used a $15,000 community development block grant from the state to help cover the cost.

The city contracted with EMH&T for engineering services for 2012. Finance Director James Nicholson said the city paid EMH&T $9,000 for preparing cost estimates for the downtown infrastructure improvements.

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