MANSFIELD -- Richland County commissioners were asked Tuesday to contribute $68,107 to the City of Mansfield's West End Neighborhood Plan.
Adrian Ackerman, the city's community development and housing director, met with commissioners and made the request to gain financial support for phase one of a likely three-phase project.
Phase one of the project, initial planning which began two years ago, is estimated to cost around $1.1 million -- including $98,864 for architect/engineering fees, $10,000 for staff costs, $969,900 for construction and $100,000 for post-inspection.
Initial construction costs were estimated at around $700,000, but have risen dramatically since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, according to Ackerman.
Ackerman told commissioners the city has $1,005,977 in unused federal Community Development Block Grant Funds from 2019, 2020 and 2021, as well as $21,600 in private donations. She also anticipates $70,000 from the city in its 2022 budget.
The overall project would improve an area whose geographic boundaries are generally Marion Avenue/Park Avenue West to the west and north; South Main Street to the east; and Glessner Avenue to the south.
Ackerman said the plan now is to start at Wood Street and work east toward Arthur Avenue along Glessner Avenue.
OhioHealth Mansfield Hospital, 335 Glessner Ave., anchors the west end of the neighborhood while St. Peter's Church and School on West First Street occupies the east end.
Streets in the area include sections of West Second Street, West First Street, Columbia Avenue, Arthur Avenue, Blymyer Avenue, Wood Street, Carpenter Road, Lind Avenue, Vennum Avenue, Poplar Street and Bartley Avenue.
The leader of the area's largest employer encouraged Mansfield City Council in December to support the proposed West End Neighborhood Plan.
Vinson Yates, president of OhioHealth Mansfield Hospital and OhioHealth Shelby Hospital, told City Council, "This has been an important neighborhood in a Mansfield for a long time. We are excited about this plan."
The overall plan includes improved roads, sidewalks, street lights, trees, tree lawns, and "road diets," which will analyze how streets could best serve current traffic patterns, as well as pedestrians.
The plan also takes a deep dive into reframing Glessner Avenue, a primary corridor through the city.
Officials, noting a "general lack of accessible public space within the neighborhood," seek to compartmentalize Glessner Avenue into four segments for improvement, including a potential "Glessner Park" for community recreation space.
Commissioners Darrell Banks, Cliff Mears and Darrell Banks all spoke Tuesday in support of the county's financial participation, but said they would seek an opinion from the county prosecutor's office to ensure general fund revenue could be used for the city project.
"Vinson Yates has told me how important this project is to the hospital," Vero said. "They have invested an unbelievable amount of money into our community and it would be foolish of us not to partner in this."
Mansfield City Council At-large representative Stephanie Zader, who joined Ackerman at the meeting, said the planned improvements will impact far beyond city limits.
"Obviously, OhioHealth is the biggest employer in Richland County," she said. "This (plan) will have a huge impact on OhioHealth and their decisions to continue to invest in our community."
Mears agreed, calling the improvement plan, "an outstanding investment in a well-defined target area."
Ackerman said, "This is a very popular corridor. This (first) phase will drive the rest of the area."
While not specifically outlined in the Mansfield Rising plan, the improvements are in keeping with the principles of the downtown revitalization program now underway.
Ackerman told City Council in 2020 that the plan offers a vision.
“This was an idea that was created actually several years ago within our department,” Ackerman said then. “Creating a neighborhood that’s safe and secure, that feels comfortable living in, renting in, owning in, walking in, being around the hospital in a safe, secure environment was the ultimate goal.”
Ackerman said the city hopes to seek bids for phase one by November/December, select a contractor by January and begin construction in March.