MANSFIELD -- Richland County commissioners unanimously endorsed the $3.2 million Shelby Main Street Corridor Plan aimed at downtown revitalization.
The trio of commissioners met with representatives from the Shelby Community Improvement Corporation, who outlined the three-part project, which includes a Main Streetscape project ($1.2 million), Black Fork Commons Plaza ($1.1 million), and a Black Fork Trail & Stream Restoration project ($900,000).
Commissioners met with Cody Albert, marketing and communications director for Ohio Health in Mansfield and Shelby; Carrie Kemerer, director of The Shelby Foundation; and Dr. Gregory Timberlake, dean of business, industry and technology for North Central State College.
Organizers didn't ask commissioners for funds for the project, merely their support, which the panel quickly offered.
The plan will use local, state and federal funds with a city investment projected at $465,000.
The Shelby Foundation also announced earlier this year it would invest $250,000 towards the project, the largest gift in the foundation's 34-year history.
The Main Street Corridor plan builds upon the recommendations of the economic development action plan created by The Montrose Group and first adopted by the city in 2017.
It includes both a long-term vision for a vibrant downtown, and short-term actionable items for the community of about 9,000 residents.
That plan said, "the City of Shelby should encourage the revitalization of its downtown by rebuilding its urban core and attracting a new, younger generation back to Shelby."
Strengths for the plan as identified through focus groups and other efforts found intact architecture and "street walls," green spaces and the (Black Fork) river corridor, successful creative building re-usage and the passion and momentum for change, preservation and revitalization.
Challenges to be overcome include condition of existing building stock, the downtown history of flooding and the perceptions those have created, lack of "anchor" stories, truck traffic and an aging demographic.
In the Mainstreet Streetscape, pedestrian enhancements are aimed at providing "safe and comfortable access to retailers and to downtown space amenities." Included are plans for additional landscaping, improved flowerpots and new furniture.
The streetscape effort has been fully funded with $240,000 from the city and $960,000 from Richland County Regional Planning.
For the Black Fork Commons Plaza, plans include an outdoor cafe area, interactive fountain, pergola and fireplace. "Enhancements to the existing pavilion (will be done) to add design consistency to park structures," according to the plan.
Organizers hope to attract $750,000 in foundation grants and $350,000 in private donors for this second phase.
In the trail and stream restoration, the plan is to create a shared-use trail that can, in the future, provide a recreational link between the city's reservoirs "while establishing appropriate environmental treatment for stream banks allowing for pedestrian accessibility."
Organizers plan on a $225,000 investment from the city toward this phase and an additional $675,000 in grant funds.