The American Planning Association recently named four Great Neighborhoods in the United States -- and Historic Downtown Delaware is one of them.

The recognition was part of the APA's annual Great Places in America list, announced to mark National Community Planning Month in October.

"We are thrilled that downtown Delaware is officially a national award-winning Great Place in America," Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle said. "Planning is behind the places communities value most and our downtown has been our city's most-defining element for more than 200 years.

"We are honored to be one of only four Great Neighborhoods in the nation recognized, and among the American Planning Association's best of the best."

A celebration of the award will be held at noon Thursday, Oct. 17, at the downtown patio, 2 S. Sandusky St., said Lee Yoakum, the city government's communications manager.

Riggle, city staff members and an APA official will speak, and a "Best Place in America" plaque to be placed downtown will be unveiled.

The program will last about 15 minutes, after which city Planning Director Dave Efland will lead a walking tour with stops along Sandusky and Winter streets.

Yoakum said the selection process began with at least 200 nominations from across the nation for the complete award series.

A seven-member panel reduced the field to about 25 for final consideration, and 13 sites were selected in the Great Neighborhood, Great Streets and Great Places categories.

"It is a big deal to recognized among the best of the best of the best," Yoakum said.

City officials recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to accept the award, meeting with Ohio Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman and 12th District U.S. Rep. Troy Balderson.

Downtown Delaware was one of many American downtowns that struggled to compete with the rise of malls and big-box stores in the late 20th century, the APA said in making the announcement.

Over the last several decades, downtown Delaware has led revitalization efforts to transform vacant space into a booming, multiuse hotspot for local businesses and events, the announcement said.

The downtown has more than 310,000 square feet of commercial space, about 200,000 square feet of which is retail use.

Other uses of the downtown space include offices, restaurants, breweries, art venues, senior housing and the Delaware County District Library.

"Through community-driven planning events and activities, downtown Delaware has united its residents and stakeholders in a shared long-term vision to preserve the core of this neighborhood and build upon it for the future needs and desires of the community," the announcement said.

The remaining Great Neighborhood winners included the Short North Arts District in Columbus and the downtowns of Lee's Summit, Missouri, and Patchogue, New York.

Downtown Delaware also was named a Great Place in Ohio by the Ohio chapter of the American Planning Association in 2018.

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