When he found out recently that the next chapter for the old Grove City Library site on Park Street might include residential development, Gregg Smurthwaite decided to try to change the story line.
So last month, he began collecting signatures from residents in support of his proposal that the library site and the city-owned land on the east side of Arbutus Avenue be redeveloped entirely as parkland or green space.
"Why do we need more apartment buildings in the Town Center?" he asked. "What we really need, and what most people would rather see, is a park that everyone could enjoy and use, not apartments that would only benefit the people who'd live there."
Smurthwaite collected 500 signatures over a two-week period and presented the petition to City Council at its May 6 meeting.
"I could have gotten another 500 easily," he said. "Everyone I talked to liked the idea. I only had two people voice any opposition."
While some are looking at the proposed community park/green space at the Beulah Park development as serving the community and the Town Center, a Town Center park still is needed, Smurthwaite said.
"I don't believe the Beulah Park plans have been solidified. Whatever park space is built at Beulah Park, we still need a central park that will be used in the downtown Town Center of Grove City," he said.
It's difficult for him to understand why city officials wouldn't want a Town Center park at the old library site, Smurthwaite said.
"A park would be an real attribute for our residents, a nice oasis in the middle of the Town Center," he said. "It would be a place that people could go for a break from the hustle and bustle, bring their kids or buy some food at a local restaurant and take it to the park for a picnic."
Mayor Richard "Ike" Stage said the city is committed to creating more green space in the Town Center, "but the question is how much green space is needed and appropriate.
"Creating some green space at the old library site would be a benefit, but to convert the entire site into parkland would be going overboard," he said.
The update of the Town Center framework now under review calls for a mix of uses for the site, Stage said.
The draft framework identifies the parcel to the west of the old library building site as proposed public park space.
In 2017, the city sent out a request for proposals to prospective local and regional developers, looking for their ideas for how the old library site could be redeveloped. The library site and surrounding parcels, including the city-owned parcel east of Arbutus, total about 3 acres.
The two developers who responded already had connections to the Town Center.
Beulah Park developer Pat Kelley submitted a proposal in partnership with the Weiler Group and Casto Communities that included a mix of residential, small retail and restaurants in the old library building and in the parcel to the immediate west.
The concept included pedestrian access, open green space, restaurant patios and general outdoor sitting areas and proposed office or low-density urban residential use be placed behind the old library site facing Civic Place.
The other proposal was submitted by the Pizzuti Cos., which developed the Broadway Station Apartments behind City Hall and served as the owner's representative for the development of the new Grove City Library at the corner of Broadway and Grant Avenue.
The main component of that proposal was a three-building, 117-unit multifamily project fronting Park Street. Six for-sale two-story townhomes were proposed for Voeller Avenue.
Pizzuti includes a proposal for a restaurant to occupy the museum building across Park Street from the library and adjacent to the police department and a pocket park at the southwest corner of Civic Place and Arbutus Avenue.
"We pushed for developers to include some green space in their proposals for the library site and adjacent properties, and both of the proposals we received did just that," Stage said.
Other green space is planned for the Town Center in the framework, including small public parks at the north and south ends of the proposed First Street promenade and a plaza installed as part of the Columbus Street extension, he said.
The old library site is expected to be demolished within the next two months, Stage said.
It's likely the Town Center Framework update will be adopted before the site is redeveloped, he said.
"We want the developers to know the big picture and we want the community to know the big picture" for the Town Center, Stage said.
The update will need to be approved by city council, he said.
The proposals received from the developers have not changed "and nothing's been promised to the developers," Stage said.
When Smurthwaite presented his proposal for a park at the old library site, some council members reacted favorably.
"I'd love to see a central park downtown. I'm 100 percent behind you on a downtown park," Councilman Ted Berry told Smurthwaite.
Berry represents Ward 1, the area that includes the Town Center.
"Unfortunately, the dogs that are around here don't have any green grass to enjoy with their owners," he said. "We're going to have to address that if we're going to have a couple thousand residents in the downtown area that are new (due to Beulah Park and other development)."
"I share (Smurthwaite's) interest in green space for the Town Center," council President Steve Robinette said.
Council and the administration "are trying to define what exactly would be in the Town Center and we've had discussions about looking at it kind of holistically or broad vision," he said.
"What that's going to look at, it's going to take some public discussion and getting everyone in to come and weigh in on it," he said.
The city is beginning a process of updating its park plan, and that will involve a number of public meetings, Stage said.
The first effort involves gathering input on the development of new parks in the Pinnacle area and at the Beulah Park development and the city is being assisted by MKSK Studios, a landscape architecture, urban design and planning firm.
Residents will be able to view a presentation and share ideas at visioning stations regarding development of the parks including possible amenities at a meeting scheduled from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 21, in Grove City Hall, 4035 Broadway.
The downtown park concept would be a good topic for Smurthwaite and others to raise "at the appropriate time" at one of the other public meetings that will be scheduled as part of the park-plan update, Berry said.