By Andrea Cordle
Grove City resident Gregg Smurthwaite did not want to see a promising opportunity go to waste. He was concerned that the city would develop the old Grove City Library site on Park Street. So earlier this year, he began collecting signatures from Grove City residents to support developing the site as a park or green space. He collected more than 600 signatures and presented that information to city leaders.
His work paid off. Residents packed City Hall for the Nov. 4 council meeting to hear the final decision. Council unanimously voted to preserve space within the Town Center for a park.
“There is too much land going to developments, especially apartments,” said Smurthwaite. “Nature and parks, they’re a wonderful thing. The people deserve a quality park.”
According to the legislation approved by council, the old library site, bounded by Park Street on the north, Arbutus Avenue on the east, Civic Place on the south and First Avenue on the west, shall be preserved for public gathering space.
Once council voted on the matter, the packed crowd broke out into applause.
“There is nothing better than a park in downtown Grove City,” said local resident Jeff Buskirk.
Council president Steve Robinette said the city could develop a small commons area or perhaps include a performance stage at the site. He sees this as a potential economic boost for the downtown area.
“This will make the Town Center more attractive for development,” said Robinette.
Even though the legislation received full council support, councilman Jeff Davis shared some concerns about the green space plan. He said when he started as a council member eight years ago, the Town Center was dead at night. The new location of the library and the apartments adjacent to City Hall changed that, according to Davis.
“The apartments and the library have put feet on the ground,” said Davis.
Davis said he would like to see more of that in the Town Center.
“The outdoor recreation space will work for summer and the spring, but not the colder months. Development brings activity year-round. I’m concerned that this legislation limits our options for development.”
Grove City Mayor Richard “Ike” Stage said the city’s administration supports setting aside green space in the Town Center but noted that this legislation lacked the proper process.
He said the city’s park board as well as consultants should have been involved in the process.
“There is a lot of economic discussion that needs to be addressed and there should be more discussion with the park board,” said Stage.
Stage said the city’s administration considered and ultimately rejected two proposals to put apartments at the old library location because the plans did not call for enough green space.
“We are going to have green space in the Town Center,” said the mayor. “It’s just a matter of where.”
The ordinance that was approved was essentially a concept. Additional legislation will be needed, and city leaders will have to figure out what amenities to include and how to pay for it.