Planners from Columbus-based MSI Design have suggested that New Albany officials consider recruiting a fitness center or developing an environmental education center in Market Square, among other ideas, to energize the village center.

Planners from Columbus-based MSI Design have suggested that New Albany officials consider recruiting a fitness center or developing an environmental education center in Market Square, among other ideas, to energize the village center.

Keith Myers of MSI said planners have made several suggestions to improve the village center while preserving the area's natural state and establishing key connections where possible.

The village center includes the New Albany-Plain Local School District campus and encompasses the area south of state Route 161 to Market Street and West Main Street (U.S. Route 62).

"These are things, some of them we could do immediately, some of them we could do within five years," said Jason Sudy of MSI, when presenting the firm's plan to village council July 20. The presentation was part of an ongoing study on ways to invigorate the village center a process that dates back to 2005.

"What we are trying to do is take all of our studies that we have done in previous ars and consolidate this in a development plan, more of a comprehensive plan for the village center," village administrator Joe Stefanov said.

The village considered fitness components, arts, education, technology and environment when contracting with MSI on the study. It was part of the 2010 budget, approved last fall.

Stefanov said the village must take the recommendations presented to council by MSI and apply an economic component to determine how each component would act as an economic catalyst for the village center.

"As a community, we need to put the right public pieces in place to encourage private-sector development of the village center," Stefanov said.

He said the economic piece is being completed and eventually would be presented to council.

Sudy said the MSI planners used five planning principles when considering improvements to the village center: sustaining green principles, using economically sustainable ideas, enhancing culture and the arts, focusing on health and wellness initiatives, and integrating education and technology.

Myers said one idea is to preserve the natural state of the Rose Run, which flows through the village center, while adding crossings over the stream to allow better access between the school campus and retail center at Market Square. Myers suggested creating an art walk along the Rose Run, which could also become a route for cyclists.

An environmental center could tie in the village's natural amenities with the school's environmental science class, taught in conjunction with the Eastland-Fairfield Career & Technical Schools, Myers said. The high school class and the area already draw people from the Ohio State University, he said, and it could draw more with an education center open to the public.

New Albany has long promoted "green" initiatives to make the village more environmentally friendly, and Myers suggested installing signs around the village to show the steps the village already has taken. He suggested marking the wetlands on Fodor Road, for example.

By using more sustainable materials for streets, as proposed in a resurfacing of Third Street, Myers said, the village could continue the "greening" of New Albany. The village is developing a stormwater master plan, which would contribute to that initiative.

Myers said several groups have discussed developing a field house in the village. The school's campus master plan, recently finished by a local committee, suggests the future need for such a facility.

Myers said New Albany also would benefit from a retail fitness center at Market Square to attract more residents to the area.

Council member Colleen Briscoe asked if the environmental education center and fitness center somehow could be combined to encourage all of the cyclists in town, for example, to use both.

Myers said village officials must take and craft MSI's ideas into objectives that could be accomplished.

Another idea associated with preserving natural spaces is to develop Founders Park, behind New Albany Village Hall, an idea village officials have discussed for many years.

MSI's final suggestion was to continue to develop more residential alternatives in the center.

Council member Glyde Marsh asked how the village could increase the number of residences.

Myers said that is a difficulty for which the village must find a solution, citing the example of getting adequate numbers to support a retail fitness center. He said the village has long been challenged by the size of its village center.

"You're going to have to have it (residential)," Myers said.

lwince@thisweeknews.com