Sylvania considers cultural, historical and arts districtWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
A broad plan for potentially upgrading downtown Sylvania was presented to City Council members, the mayor and a group of about 30 citizens on Jan. 18.
“Creating and Promoting a Cultural, Historical and Arts District for the City of Sylvania” is the result of more than a year’s worth of work by Bill Sanford, economic development coordinator, with the Poggemeyer Design Group, a consulting group. A steering committee of about 12 city officials and downtown merchants also has been meeting and giving input.
“In fall 2010, we made a decision to go after one of these planning grants, which we were aware of through Poggemeyer,” Sanford said. That grant was part of a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), administered by the Ohio Department of Development. Sylvania received $15,000 from the CDBG, which it had to match, to fund planning the possible downtown and historic district revamp. In May, the city must submit its “threshold” application, along with a market survey.
The plan was presented by Sanford, Randy Mielnik and Danielle Steinhauser of Poggemeyer and Tad Krear of Land Design Studio.
Krear, who did the bulk of the presentation, displayed mockups of what Sylvania could look like with specific improvements, focusing on creating more of a cultural, historical and arts district. He cited making the downtown and historic district more pedestrian-friendly by converting alleyways and parking spaces into walkways and creating additional crosswalks.
He also touched on building renovations, like putting more windows in storefronts, creating sidewalk cafes and adding signs to businesses. Krear stopped at one slide and remarked, “OK, it takes some sweat equity and money, but in 20 years, wouldn’t this make a great bed and breakfast?”
Community gardens and sidewalk art were some of the other suggestions, in addition to adding informative signs on historic spots.
Councilman Mark Luetke praised Sanford’s efforts with the plan: “I think it’s fair to say that Bill’s given the city another set of arms and legs to keep track of these things.”
Later at the City Council meeting, Mayor Craig Stough said he was satisfied with the number of consultants.
“I think it’s a strength,” he said. “We do need different viewpoints.”
At the city council meeting, the administration moved forward with another step for the CDBG — spending $12,000 to have Sharon Woods of Landuse USA, a professional location analysis company, create the market study needed for the application.
CDBGs total of $2.4 million in Ohio with $100,000 earmarked for planning grants like the one Sylvania received. If approved, the city stands to receive $400,000, which it will need to match. Steinhauser said the city will likely find out if it’s been approved in July and will need to submit a “full application” by October. The grant will be awarded January 2013.