Uptown Westerville is full of surprises. Although I have the privilege of working in the district every day at City Hall, there's always something new happening in the core of our city, which has undergone a renaissance in recent years.

Uptown Westerville is full of surprises. Although I have the privilege of working in the district every day at City Hall, there's always something new happening in the core of our city, which has undergone a renaissance in recent years.

Uptown has survived severe economic conditions, including the Great Recession between 2007-2010. Credit goes to a strong merchants association, resilient business owners and a supportive community for seeing the district through difficult years. The same partners are largely responsible for today's thriving Uptown.

It's that spirit that continues to attract visitors near and far. Whether choosing Uptown for an evening treat, or bringing out-of-town guests for local shopping, the district continues to be a destination for people who appreciate a historic downtown that offers modern dining, retail and entertainment.

Because we have a fair amount of traffic (foot and vehicular) coming to experience Uptown's authentic charm, parking has been at the center of development efforts for some time. A perception of limited parking is what we most commonly hear.

The Uptown Master Plan (online at westerville.org), approved last year by Westerville City Council, extensively studied parking options in the district. It also considers parking required for future growth and development.

Some of the parking issues addressed included signage, timing for peak parking demands, visitor/patrons' willingness to park and walk, type of business parking requirements and usage patterns. At that time, a total of 1,080 existing Uptown parking spaces were identified. The current need for parking spaces is estimated to be 977.

These facts do not diminish the perception that parking can be tight and seem inaccessible during peak periods. This perception may be exacerbated by less than ideal parking locations and configurations that often conceal available spaces. Coupled with heavy traffic patterns along State Street, challenging on-street maneuvering, the parking "shortage" can feel real. City officials don't dismiss the idea that future economic growth in the district can quickly increase these demands.

The Uptown Plan identifies options for future parking lot design, including a potential parking deck. Additionally, a redesign of alleyways to better circulate traffic is expected to help resolve issues with on-street parking.

The city has initiated multiple projects to improve parking in Uptown. The resurfacing of the lots at State and Home streets has improved both quality and quantity of spaces. New on-street parking has been created in front of Hanby Elementary School, and the City Hall Parking Lot Improvement Project, once complete in October, will offer additional spaces and improved pedestrian access to State Street. A project planned for early 2016 in collaboration with the Westerville Public Library should add approximately 60 more spaces at the south end of Uptown.

Uptown is primed for continued improvements in the coming years, and the city's planning efforts are in place to accommodate changes. In fact, the City's Facade Improvement Program has encouraged significant redevelopment and improvement to Uptown building exteriors. This grant program matches dollar-for-dollar the cost of improvements up to $15,000. Dozens of building upgrades have resulted, including tuck-pointing, window repair and replacement and new awnings. To date, this program has a 6-to-1 return on investment, spurring other building owners to reinvest in their properties.

Whether it's parking or continued interest in business development and building rehabilitation, Uptown remains a vital and accessible community asset.

David Collinsworth is the city manager of Westerville.