Council wants more public input on Town Center plan

By Andrea Cordle
Grove City Editor

What kind of redevelopment is preferred in the Grove City Town Center?

That is a question city leaders have been contemplating for years. With development projects already in the works, city council held a special meeting on Jan. 25 to discuss an updated Town Center conceptual framework plan and downtown park space.

According to Kim Shields, the city’s community development manager, in August 2019, city officials held a public meeting to go over Town Center development. More than 200 residents, business owners and visitors were surveyed. Shields said the survey results showed people wanted more parking in the downtown area, more restaurants and places of activity, and more community and green space.

It has been well over a year since that meeting and council members want additional public feedback.

“There were over 200 surveyed in 2019 but we have more than 40,000 residents in this city,” said Christine Houk, council president.

Houk said this conceptual framework plan should be a document that changes over time with plenty of public input as part of the process.

Councilman Ted Berry said the public input portion should be revisited because attitudes may have changed since the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“The need for green space, for open space has been highlighted with this pandemic,” said Berry.

Berry said one of the main goals of a Town Center plan is to get people into the downtown area and keep people in that area.

“People go out to eat, then what,” asked Berry. “There is no space downtown to sit.”

Houk said the plan should aim to boost business and the downtown area should be an activity hub.

Councilman Roby Schottke said city officials should keep some areas in the Town Center open for development.

“It’s development that brings people to the area,” he said. “We need to keep our options open.”

One thing that residents have made clear – they want a park in the Town Center.

When the Grove City Library relocated to Broadway, hundreds of residents signed a petition to city leaders saying they wanted that property on Park Street turned into a park or community gathering space. In November of 2019, council approved a plan to preserve that site for a park or performance space. In October of 2020, consultants presented a proposal for the site that would be like a mini commons area.

“The idea was to fit that park into the (Town Center) framework,” said Kim Conrad, the city’s parks and recreation director.

She said the plan included stakeholder input. It included a park that held about 1,200 people and featured a performance stage, an open area for food trucks or lounging and a water feature.

The problem with that plan is that residents said the site was too small. Many thought the plan would include some surrounding property.

In December of 2020, council considered legislation to appropriate $250,000 to remove a section of Arbutus Avenue to make more space for a Town Center park. That legislation was postponed.

Houk said she was hesitant to spend the funds before the completion of the Town Center conceptual framework plan.

Grove City Mayor Richard “Ike” Stage asked council to approve a resolution of support for an updated Town Center framework plan. Council members said before that happens, they would like additional community input.

Where does this leave the plan for downtown development and park space?

Council members discussed the next steps. They would like to pass a resolution of support for a Town Center plan, define (and zone) the areas to be potentially turned into a park, and hold public meetings on these plans and ideas when it is safe to do so.

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