The other day someone asked me, "Will we ever be done making changes to the Grove City Town Center?"
The short answer is no. After all, we didn't come this far, to only come this far.
The Grove City Town Center planning and revitalization is an ever-evolving process and subject to the changing needs of our community. In fact, the identity of our Town Center has evolved over the years as a result of how our community has changed.
As an area rich with farmland and natural resources for producing crops and raising livestock, Grove City was established as -- and remained predominantly -- an agricultural community for years.
Town Center businesses were comprised primarily of those supporting our neighbors' farming needs. Among the most long-standing were the flour mill, Farmers Exchange, Grove City Lumber and Grove City Hardware.
In its most active years, patrons lined the street leading to the Farmers Exchange to bring crops for processing and purchase farming supplies.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Milligan Poultry Farm alone purchased as much as six tons of feed per day to support the tens of thousands of turkeys and chickens it raised each year. As farming operations of this size dwindled and the overall volume of agricultural business in Grove City significantly changed, Town Center experienced an impact that launched a shift in its business mix.
First to go was the flour mill in the early 1920s, when the recently established Farmers Exchange assumed its business operations after a devastating fire.
In 2000, Grove City Lumber had fallen victim to the changed pattern of retail in the area and closed its doors, followed by the Farmers Exchange closing in 2001. By 2006, Grove City Hardware was the last of the original Town Center retail businesses to remain open, but the building had significantly deteriorated and could no longer house the hardware business.
Though all were substantial losses, the most significant setback to the Town Center's patronage came in 1976 when the U.S. Postal Service moved the Grove City branch from Broadway and Grant Avenue to a new facility nearly two miles from Town Center.
I recall the city worked long and hard -- for more than 10 years -- to encourage the U.S. Postal Service to choose a site closer to the Town Center so a patron base would continue to grow in that area, yet the Dartmoor Road location was the eventual choice.
Although the identity of the Town Center has transitioned away from an agricultural base, our resolve to grow and enhance its appeal has never wavered. Challenges are just that ... challenges.
Recognizing Town Center's identity was changing, the city embarked on a mission to revitalize the area, starting with tackling the challenge of deteriorating buildings, roads, sidewalks and streetscapes.
Supporting and working with businesses has been vital to the success we've had. We have a community interest and responsibility to cherish and protect the Town Center's historic start, from the buildings we restore to the bricks on the streets. The focused and intentional renovation efforts have served us well.
We appreciate and respect the input regarding Town Center changes from residents, businesses and patrons. This input is integrated with data and trends from detailed studies to create positive growth strategies.
Our Town Center aesthetics -- a mix of historical structures, new construction and revitalized/reimagined retail and restaurant space -- remains a community point of pride.
Planning for tomorrow while embracing the past continues to make Grove City Town Center an attractive place, serving as a vital element of our Best Hometown recognition.
Mayor Richard L. "Ike" Stage is serving his fifth term as mayor.