The final four contenders vying for the Big Darby Accord Town Center project presented master plan ideas to community members and Prairie Township trustees on Feb. 26.
The Big Darby Accord is a Watershed Protection Plan that covers 555 miles of central Ohio, west of the Columbus metropolitan area. It was put into place in order to help the Big Darby Creek, which flows 80 miles from Logan County into Circleville, where it joins the Scioto River.
The purpose of the Town Center is to initiate a high density development area within the Big Darby Accord, within close proximity to areas that are already urbanizing. The eastern edge of the accord, near the borders of Franklin and Madison counties, is the most urbanized area within the accord.
Presentations revolved around community and environmental responsibility. Each of the four firms emphasized the importance of community involvement and has included public meetings and community input as a part of their plan.
McKenna Associates, Inc.
McKenna Associates, Inc., led by Christina McKenna, touted the slogan “Locally committed, nationally recognized” to describe the composition of the selected team for the project. McKenna Associates, Inc. employed individuals tied to the surrounding community, as well as consultants from the national arena to work together.
“This can be a world class town center,” said McKenna.
In order to view the project from different perspectives, McKenna Associates, Inc. enlisted the help of four outside specialists: a project architect, a market analyst, a project engineer, and a project attorney.
Each specialist addressed a different aspect of the plan for the Big Darby Accord Town Center, placing emphasis on retail components, pedestrian accommodations, and environmental sustainability.
The team plans to complete the project in four phases by first conducting a market study. The project proposal spans an estimated twelve months.
Consultants from MSI emphasized a history of work in Ohio as a foundation for the Big Darby Town Center master plan. The firm worked as the lead consultant on the Darby Accord, as did many of the outside specialists that compose the near 20-member, local team.
“We have established relationships,” said Chris Hermann, the Director of Planning at MSI.
“We really understand this area.”
MSI proposed a ten-month, seven-step plan for the Big Darby Town Center.
Initially, the firm intends to review the existing conditions of the area before conducting a market analysis combined with feasibility testing.
“Just because it’s economical, doesn’t mean it’s feasible,” said project team member Doug Harnish of GEM Real Estate Group.
The key issues of the project, according to Hermann, are the preservation of the Big Darby Creek, community involvement, and the management of impacts to the environment, services, utilities, transportation, and other tools.
Urban Design Associates
An urban design firm based in Pittsburgh, Pa., Urban Design Associates (UDA) offers representatives of six consulting firms familiar with national projects to assist in creating an individualized plan based on other successful projects.
“We have the team needed to do this complex project,” said Don Carter with UDA.
“We’ll bring our knowledge and experience of other projects; you’ll tell us what has worked here and what hasn’t worked.”
The firm utilizes a three-phase approach to the Big Darby Town Center plan: data base and analysis, alternatives, and a final plan.
UDA also plans to hire a steering committee comprised of residents, property owners, environmental groups, religious groups, etc. to work with the consultants.
The consultants at UDA emphasize a progressive solution through public involvement, engaging a multidisciplinary team, and a focus on implementation.
Goody Clancy/ACP – Visioning and Planning
Goody Clancy, in conjunction with ACP – Visioning and Planning presents an emphasis on the core initiative to create a “significant, sustainable place built through diverse stakeholder partnerships and a deep technical understanding of the issues at the heart of 21st century place-making.”
Creating an environment that facilitates personal connections, community participation, and likeability is important, according to David Dixon of Goody Clancy.
Goody Clancy and ACP – Visioning and Planning hope to build a momentum for the advocacy of the project through continuous civic engagement and open channels of communication.
“We recognize that there are a lot of opinions out there,” said Dixon.
“We need to get to know you.”
The plan for the town center proposes three main phases over an eleven month period.
“This is about creating a vision,” said Dixon.
After listening to four proposals, Sandra Fry and Dianne Bradford, joint property owners within the area of the planned Big Darby Town Center, shared their opinions.
Fry and Bradford were looking for a firm committed to working with property owners and saw that quality in Goody Clancy and ACP – Visioning and Planning.
“They seem more down-to-earth and trusting,” said Bradford.
MSI also found favor with the sisters.
“They should be able to hit the road running with the project,” said Bradford, due to the level of experience and familiarity that MSI has with the Big Darby Accord.