MANSFIELD — The Richland County Foundation Board approved a five-year, $1.5 million investment in Mansfield Rising projects during its February meeting.
In 2020, part of that investment has been allocated to improve facades on existing businesses, increase the number of public restrooms, public art and free public Wi-Fi.
The foundation is also seeking partners to help fund and work on additional Mansfield Rising projects.
"We saw the vision a few years ago, and we invested in the initial SXSW trip with the expressed purpose of coming back with a downtown investment plan," said Brady Groves, president of the Richland County Foundation. "That group has responded wonderfully, and this is the logical next step in being able to make that financial commitment."
Since the public unveiling of the Mansfield Rising plan in March, the group has organized into four committees focused on the needs of Mansfield: image building, economic development, quality of life, and family engagement.
Within those committees, projects have been created that the Richland County Foundation has organized into priority areas they will pursue over the next five years.
These priorities include: branding, wayfinding, Main Street redevelopment, encouraging downtown development, facade improvement for existing businesses, increasing the number of public facilities, public art campaign, free public Wi-Fi, the mid-block crosswalk on Fourth Street, linear parks, multi-use public spaces for gatherings, and outdoor movies.
"What it has allowed us to do through the work of those committees is formalize a road map of opportunity," Groves said. "We're looking at what are the most practical and feasible opportunities available for consideration...while they provide funding sources for us, we'll be looking for collaborators and partners in all these projects."
Various aspects of the Mansfield Rising plan are already in the works. In September, Mansfield City Council unanimously approved a permanent crosswalk on Fourth Street as a way to make the area more pedestrian friendly.
Mansfield City Council has also converted Mulberry Street to two-way traffic in the downtown and now is considering a similar proposal for Diamond Street.
In December, the Richland County commissioners approved contributing up to $2,500 toward a $100,000 community branding effort, a key messaging and development idea found in the Mansfield Rising plan.
According to Maura Teynor, chief advancement officer at the Richland County Foundation, Cubic Creative, a company based in Tulsa, Okla., will be in Richland County the week of March 22 to conduct focus groups and research towards the community branding effort.
"The Mansfield Rising committee felt community branding was one of the very first steps we had to take in order to move forward with all the other projects to follow," Teynor said.