By Linda Dillman
Bricks grace downtown Canal Winchester as buildings with a heritage dating back over 100 years stand watch over people visiting local shops and restaurants.
However, time is taking its toll on the heart of the city and businesses are asking city leaders and administrators to help put a brighter shine back on the quaintness of the High and Waterloo streets area.
“I had an opportunity with Councilwoman Jill Amos, Councilman Patrick Shea and City Public Services Director Matt Peoples to walk downtown and look at the streets and the curbs in downtown Canal Winchester,” said Jackie Marion, who represented the Downtown Merchants Association during a June 20 Canal Winchester City Council meeting. “I think we all agree we love this town, find it charming and want to keep it that way. As we walked and talked, we found a lot of opportunities to make it more safe.”
Marion said there is a problem with the crosswalks at the intersection of High and Waterloo streets, which is the same issue she brought up at a 2021 council meeting.
“On Saturday (June 18) I watched three different people walk three different ways in the crosswalk,” said Marion. “Matt told me the signs are where people should walk, but they don’t. It is an issue that should be addressed. Some of the things that need to be done are long-term projects. They take money and that’s always a priority. I’m asking you to look into the wallets of Canal Winchester and hopefully come up with some money.”
Marion said there are issues with curbs not being cleaned up on a regular basis. She said elements like hanging baskets spread throughout the town would make a more dramatic impact if focused in the downtown area.
“We have an opportunity to make downtown charming,” said Marion. “The curbs need help, the bricks are uneven. If we edged and mulched the trees, what a nice entryway it would be downtown on the main streets.”
Amos said, while there are many broken curbs and a lot of sidewalk issues, city representatives continue to hear from visitors and residents that downtown—considered the center of the city and the heart of the town—is attractive.
Amos said the impromptu tour pointed out places where modifications can be made and, while funds are required to accomplish those endeavors, she felt it would be money well spent in keeping the downtown atmosphere preserved.
“We’ll continue floating ideas around,” said Amos. “We talked about potential bed tax money because that is bringing tourists into our town.”
Carm Smith, proprietor of CornerSmiths, shared possibilities for the future including establishing a beautification committee or commission similar to one in German Village.
Smith said many of the same communities throughout Ohio are highlighted year after year in publications and lists and she would like to see Canal Winchester on the same lists and in the same stories.
Shea commended Peoples for his department’s quick response to the sidewalk hazard and addressing weeds growing in sidewalks and around curbs.
“We’re all in agreement downtown is a very charming place and we want to protect it as much as possible and keep it as beautiful as we can,” said Shea. “As we become more pedestrian friendly, it’s going to be vital to identify those crosswalks. That is a huge one for us.”
Peoples said many of the things discussed with Marion and the two council members are on a capital improvement list, but smaller issues took a back seat to increased mowing due to the wet spring.
“One of the biggest things (that could be addressed immediately) was the tripping hazard that was there,” said Peoples. “Then there was a little landscape area that kind of got forgotten.”
The street brick work dates back to the early 1990s and is starting to show its age. As problems crop up, they are addressed, but deciding what to tackle first as part of a major overhaul is difficult.
“Crosswalks are a little difficult because we get into some ADA compliance issues,” said Peoples. “Those might be a little more major. The brick work in front of 10 N. High St. is cracking up. It’s ready to go. We’ve talked about some of this brick work getting replaced by concrete in the sidewalk areas especially.”
Peoples said, by taking the walking tour, things that were overlooked were noticed when seen through the eyes of someone else.
“For the last couple of months, we’ve had a lot of people tell us that U.S. 33 is our identity and I’ve never ever thought that,” said Peoples. “It’s always been the downtown.”
Amos said the city needs to figure out if brick paving is the best solution and how to better identify crosswalks, while at the same time deciding the best fiscal option in obtaining a nice look that is pedestrian friendly.
“There’s a lot to chew on,” said Council President Chuck Milliken. “I think pedestrian safety should be our number one priority.”