City to buy flowers for historic district
Taking a page from a national florist, Pickerington is going to "say it with flowers" this spring.
City officials plan to spend approximately $10,000 to purchase flower baskets and banners and to refit Olde Pickerington Village lampposts so the new decorations can be hung on them.
It might not be the biggest public revitalization project to come down the pike in recent years, but according to some downtown players, the additions are the latest example of the city fostering relationships with those with historic district interests.
"The city has taken a renewed interest in this downtown area," said Sandy Melillo, owner of The Hair Boutique, 37 E. Columbus St., and president of the Olde Pickerington Village Business Association. "That's just going to enhance our community."
Last April, some OPVBA members held a vastly different opinion.
Stung by Pickerington City Council's decision to deny a $1,271 request to fund carriage rides, carriage ride luminaries and children's crafts at the OPVBA's annual Victorian Holiday, OPVBA treasurer Deblin Jennings compared city officials to "the Grinch who stole Christmas."
According to Melillo and Pickerington Area Chamber of Commerce president Helen Mayle, downtown stakeholders — including the city — have begun mending fences.
Melillo said a city representative now regularly joins OPVBA meetings after attendance dropped off last year. She credited Mayor Mitch O'Brien with bringing the meetings back to the city's attention.
She also said the city's help and better cooperation among local people and groups should improve the 13 events held in Olde Pickerington — everything from the Violet Festival to Taste of Pickerington and the July Fourth parade — and keep them from leaving.
In recent years, the opposite has at times happened, including last year when the city's reluctance to allow alcohol sales and consumption in Victory Park led to the relocation of the Pickerington Jazz and Blues Ribfest to Canal Winchester after 11 years in Olde Pickerington.
"We've had, in my opinion, kind of a division in the community and now everybody is coming together," Melillo said. "All I know is (the city and local groups) had not been working together and now they are.
"The business owners work really hard to put these events down here. It's not just for our businesses. It's more improving the quality of life and what's available downtown."
On Jan. 27, the city hosted a meeting with OPVBA and chamber officials, as well as those from the Pickerington Local School District, Violet Township officials and other downtown merchants and property owners.
Attendees were told of the city's plans to purchase and outfit downtown lampposts with flower baskets and banners, something that hasn't occurred the past two years.
City officials also held a presentation that many hope will lead to the establishment of a Main Street Pickerington organization within the next two or three years.
Main Street programs were developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to save historic commercial architecture throughout the United States. In Ohio, they are administered by Heritage Ohio, which works with communities to revitalize local historic or traditional commercial areas.
Mayle said Pickerington city manager Bill Vance has made regional teamwork a priority, and it's paying off.
"It seems like the first time since I joined the chamber (six years ago) that everybody's on the same page," Mayle said. "I'm an 'area' chamber of commerce, and the chamber's goal always has been working together for the regional economy. It's great the city has a manager who supports that."
Vance said the city isn't singling out Olde Pickerington, but rather is taking an initial step toward citywide community and economic development enhancements.
City development services director Susan Crotty said the downtown area currently is the focus of efforts because Pickerington hopes to help in further development of local events, as well as business retention and recruitment.
"The city is actively working with the Olde Pickerington Village Business Association and the Pickerington Area Chamber of Commerce to reinvigorate the downtown area," Crotty said. "We have seen a lot of interest by businesses looking in the downtown area.
"We're going to focus a little more on beautification efforts. Due to budget constraints in the past, we had gotten away a little bit from flower baskets and banners and things that identify the downtown and give it a sense of place."
According to Crotty, there are 59 businesses currently operating in Olde Pickerington, and three new businesses are planning openings soon.
Melillo said she's aware of just two commercial space vacancies currently in Olde Pickerington.
"We want to preserve the history of the city and foundation of the community while also making it attractive to visitors," Crotty said. "I see neighborhood and community development and business retention and expansion as a greater economic development strategy for the city.
"Olde Pickerington Village has unique needs the city is trying to address. Concurrently, we're working to address needs throughout the city."