Pickerington City Council is expected to soon receive a report from a six-month planning initiative designed to guide public projects and spur future economic growth in Olde Pickerington Village.
In 2017, the city hired OHM Advisors, an architecture, engineering and planning firm, to help create the first strategic plan for Olde Pickerington Village in 24 years.
Since then, OHM has solicited input from city officials, residents and the business community to help define a vision for downtown Pickerington, including how to boost the tax base through economic development and improve the area's connectivity and public appeal.
Findings from the initiative, known as the Downtown Plan, will be shared with City Council and the public during a 7 p.m. meeting Tuesday, May 15, in Pickerington City Hall, 100 Lockville Road. Pickerington paid OHM $35,000 to prepare the plan.
"Downtowns are the heart of a community," said Lee Gray, Pickerington mayor. "Our vision is a place where people can eat, shop, play and enjoy businesses that are unique to Pickerington. "We already have a solid foundation, but we feel like the (plan) will get us to the next level."
Pickerington Area Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer Theresa Byers, who also was on the Downtown Plan Steering Committee, said she's excited to see how City Council and the Pickerington Planning and Zoning Commission receive the report and its recommendations.
"It was a process that took several months to complete and included several key stakeholders within the downtown community," she said."
A draft of the OHM report stated 469 people provided feedback for the planning process.
Most -- 300 -- participated via an online survey and 145 provided input during two public meetings.
From that, the draft report states the top three goals of the Downtown Plan are: to bring people and vibrancy downtown; to bring businesses and commerce downtown; and to increase awareness of downtown.
The report states that in order to achieve those goals, a central leader or leadership group must be identified to resolve "disconnect between common-interest groups -- multiple groups trying to achieve a common goal with limited resources and the lack of a common voice for downtown."
It also states a recognizable brand that can help promote the downtown should be developed and stakeholders, such as the city and local businesses, should do more to promote Olde Pickerington Village through a communication strategy that uses social media and strategic marketing in the region to attract people downtown.
Along with promotion, the report calls for the city to connect Olde Pickerington Village to nearby neighborhoods with sidewalks and multiuse paths.
The report further states more must be done to building upkeep downtown.
"It's crucial that steps are taken, from both the incentive side and punitive side, to foster building investment," it states. "There is no shortage in terms of demand for high quality commercial, residential, and office space, but no one is seeking dilapidated space."
Other areas for improvement, according to the report, are developing vacant first- and upper-floor storefronts for professional office and residential uses, protecting the architectural characteristics of central downtown and making better use of and expanding parking areas.
The report states the current downtown lacks a sense of community because of limited public spaces, and it recommended relocating the Fairfield County Sheriff's Office substation at 4 E. Columbus St. and assisting property acquisition along Columbus Street either by a community-improvement corporation or private developer.
It also calls for a public space or plaza on the northeast corner of Columbus Street and Center Street.
The report notes there is a large swath of undeveloped city-owned land north of the railroad tracks on Town Square Drive that should continue to be used for a farmer's market that helps draw people to Olde Pickerington Village.
It also says the city should consider realigning Town Square Drive to Borland Street "to create developable parcels on either side of Town Square."
Other strategies suggested for drawing people downtown could include installation of sculptures or other artwork, providing a variety of benches and other seating, installing bicycle racks and allowing murals to be painted.
"As we look at the continued growth of Pickerington, we are inspired by the momentum of new projects already completed, such as Combustion Brewery & Taproom, and the many new projects that are in the works," Byers said.
"We are seeing commercial properties sell and new businesses coming to town.
"The Downtown Plan will bring the chamber, the Pickerington Village Association, and the city of Pickerington together to create a cohesive vision and plan for future development."