Approximately 55 people attended the question-and-answer session of the Mansfield Rising plan at Idea Works on Thursday.

MANSFIELD -- The creators of the Mansfield Rising Plan answered questions from approximately 55 guests who gathered Thursday at Idea Works in downtown Mansfield to discuss the recently released plan.

Throughout March, Richland Source highlighted the plan's ideas in a daily series, called Ideas of March, and collected 70 reader-submitted questions, comments and suggestions.  

Approximately 25 were answered at the Mansfield Rising Meet Up, and all were passed on to the Mansfield Rising Team to review. 

Here's a review of the conversation. 

QUESTION: How is the plan going to be funded? And will it cost taxpayers any money?

ANSWER: Allie Watson of the Richland County Foundation: No one entity can fully fund this plan -- not the city nor the foundation. We realize there is a need for funding partners with this plan.

The execution of this plan will need to be equally as collaborative as its development. This will be a collaborative effort and will require large and small funders to engage and invest.

Will it cost taxpayers money? I’ll let the elected officials handle that answer.

I would ask is there a way for everyone to invest? And the answer is yes. When City Council passed the $5 license plate fee last year we all became supporters of the improvements in downtown Mansfield. That $5 contribution that each of us will make annually over the next 12 years will result in over $2 million of funding for improvement projects in downtown. In this case, the boundaries of downtown are 6th Street to 1st Street and Adams Street to Bowman and Sturges Streets.

Funders will depend on the specific project. Some projects will be eligible for certain types of funding that others are not.

QUESTION: “There are so many buildings in the downtown area that are empty and crumbling. Shouldn’t we address those before we build new?”

ANSWER: Jennifer Kime of Downtown Mansfield Inc.: I can certainly understand that point of view and as a preservationist, I tend to lean that way myself.  

If we want real change, though, we can’t look at downtown development as a zero sum game. It is critical that we address both the current buildings as well as look to new build opportunities. Appropriate new construction in a downtown is actually a great way to direct future investment into historic buildings.

QUESTION: Are there further plans for continued growth specifically in the restaurant, brewery and entertainment business?

ANSWER: Jennifer Kime of Downtown Mansfield Inc.: Absolutely, new restaurants like Hudson & Essex and Reindeer Grill and new bars and evening entertainment like Warehouse Tavern are exciting additions to downtown. There are some other great spaces that we are hoping to have new bars and restaurants, as well as entertainment.

Renovation of existing buildings is critical so that we can have those spaces available.  

QUESTION: Has Mansfield looked into creating districts for young talent with incentives to buy a home and stay?

ANSWER: Aurelio Diaz of Downtown Mansfield Inc.: The Boulevards is definitely an area that many young people in the creative community are gravitating towards. In addition to The Boulevards, the St. Peter’s District (SPD) is increasingly experiencing young creative and entrepreneurial inhabitants. This particular area is an extension of downtown which many people find attractive and convenient.

An example of the revitalization of the SPD is the addition of two small businesses, Henry’s Screenprinting and the St. Pete’s Recording Studio. There is also an opportunity for those who are looking to purchase homes in the SPD. I foresee this district booming within the next few months and that’s due to the merging of the Imagination District and all-around buzz from the Mansfield Rising plan.

QUESTION: I have said for many years we need to have activities coordinated between Mansfield Symphony, Richland Academy, etc. for programs as people who support one may support others on different nights. So generally, is it possible to include the arts in this project? And how can we do that? 

ANSWER: By Chelsie Thompson of the Renaissance Theatre: Yes, absolutely. In addition to the use of artistic elements in everything from wayfinding and seating options to trash receptacles and window wraps, we also would love to engage our incredible arts community in the creation of pieces that could be showcased as public art to reflect our local culture in murals, sculptures, and public festivals and exhibits. Live performances can be leveraged to create a vibrant and lively downtown -- just look at the Brickyard on a balmy summer night.

And our residents can be drawn in to participate in the plan through the creation of community works of art. One of the truly beautiful things about our area is that we have a thriving arts community, as this reader suggests, which has fostered what we call “arts carnivores," or in other words, fans of the arts who want to engage with multiple art forms in multiple ways by supporting a range of organizations.

This lends itself to great opportunity for public art works, and in support of the continued growth of the local arts scene, our arts and culture organizations consistently strive to collaborate together, both in partnerships and through such groups as the RCDG Arts and Culture Sector.

QUESTION: Let’s talk more about the Chief Digital Officer position introduced on Day 16. One reader asked, would the Chief Digital Officer position be full-time? Who is in charge of the city’s digital presence now?

ANSWER: By Maura Teynor of the Richland County Foundation: The Chief Digital Officer is a full-time position. Finding the correct organization for the CDO is key. It could be a position at the City of Mansfield. However, the Administration and City Council need to figure out if it is a position they want to incorporate into their current organizational chart and budget.

Other organizations may want to house the CDO such as Destination Mansfield, Richland Area Chamber of Commerce, Richland Community Development Group or Downtown Mansfield Inc. Again, the organization would have to review their capacity to add an employee. Paying for the CDO could come from a combined effort of organizations.

QUESTION: One of the most popular “Ideas” asked, when are we getting Bird, Lime, Lyft or Jump scooters for public use downtown? One reader said, “My friend and I went on a trip to San Antonio recently and had a blast riding around on them. Cities say they increase foot traffic and drive local business. Might be a cool and inexpensive thing to look into.” 

ANSWER: By Matthew Stanfield of FiELD9: architecture: While there are no current plans to bring scooters per se to downtown Mansfield, there is a bike share program available through the Mansfield Richland County Public Library. Bikes can be borrowed from the library from mid-April through the summer.

Electric scooters or electric assist bicycles would be a great compliment to this program. In order to bring a company like Bird, Lime, or Jump to Mansfield, there are some legal questions that would need to be addressed and some infrastructure that would need to be put in place.

QUESTION: So let’s say we do get some new scooters to zoom around on downtown How do these new transportation options mesh with our unpredictable Ohio climate? How do these work in cities with similar weather to us as opposed to Austin, Texas?

ANSWER: By Matthew Stanfield of FiELD9: architecture: The climate in Ohio does makes many alternative transportation options unappealing to the casual user for a good portion of the year.

Several Midwestern cities have seen electric scooters appear on their streets with various levels of success. Notably, Columbus, Indianapolis, Chicago, and Milwaukee. The scooters are a new enough phenomenon that there is not good data to indicate how they will fair through winter months.

So while there is a risk that they would not be used for a portion of the year, there is precedence for them in other cities with climates similar to ours.

QUESTION: This question relates to transportation, but more specifically to Day 14’s ideas of investing in our streets, implementing traffic calming measures and enacting car-free zones. One reader asked to please explain why the automobile is “the least efficient mode of transportation.” 

ANSWER: By Jotika Shetty of Richland County Regional Planning Commission: For many of us cars remain the most convenient transportation mode because we lack other options. But single user passenger cars as used mostly today is not the most efficient modes of transportation.

In America transportation is the number one source of carbon emissions. Petroleum is still the main source  of fuel and passenger cars and light trucks contribute to half of the emissions in transportation. Cars also require a great deal of investment in infrastructure when the majority of the trips taken is actually within a five mile radius of where we live.

As congestion increases we spend more time in our cars in a passive activity that is not improving our health. While auto free zones is one end of the spectrum  even smaller measures like implementing traffic calming measures increases the safety for pedestrians and bicyclists and can take back our streets from the automobile and shape them as people spaces.

QUESTION: Many “Ideas” center around bringing people back downtown. When it comes to gathering, will you incorporate sensors that make the area more accessible for the visually impaired? How will you make new spaces welcoming and accessible for people of all abilities?

ANSWER: By Bob Bianchi of the City of Mansfield: As we plan infrastructure projects, accessibility for persons with disabilities will certainly be considered. Making the public right-of-way readily accessible and usable by all people is a design principle that will be used when planning and preparing construction plans.

Engineers and architects will use accessible design standards for project components such as curb ramps, detectable warning plates and accessible pedestrian signals for persons who are blind or have low vision.    

QUESTION: One reader wondered how we can collectively provide an arena that supports engagement of our elderly population, which is vital to the aging process and our community?

ANSWER: By Nikki Lewis of the Richland Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development: Making sure we are inclusive of all was one of the most important pieces of creating this plan. We tried to think of everyone in this community and outside of it and how they all could be included in activities and events in Downtown. Our community cannot just focus on providing for our youth and forgetting our aging population. We need to be mindful of including everyone.

The ideas outlined within this plan discuss transportation options, events that span different genres and themes, family friendly events, and inclusive spaces. Beyond the fun stuff, we also want to make sure that this area is safe and comfortable for all. Making sure our sidewalks are easily accessible, that are streets are clean of litter, and that the perception of being unsafe is gone. We truly want all to feel welcome in Downtown Mansfield, not just some.

QUESTION: Creative recycling was the main topic of Day 24. One reader asked, “Can hotels and motels be encouraged to recycle?” How can we get everyone downtown involved in recycling?

ANSWER: By Aurelio Diaz of Downtown Mansfield Inc.: Recycling impacts so many areas in the community so we definitely encourage all people and businesses to participate. When discussing creative recycling we wanted to dovetail functional recycling with public art so that it’s inclusive to all communities and, well, exciting.

We all know that recycling is important but that doesn’t necessarily mean that people consistently follow through with doing it. By partnering with businesses, schools, and artists, our hope is that we can design a recycling program that creates excitement while promoting a safe and clean environment. 

QUESTION: One of the most unique ideas came on Day 15 with rain gardens as a way to manage stormwater. Readers want to know, has the plan considered incorporating food into the rain gardens? For example, fruit and nut trees, vegetables and herbs could provide free food in the community and create “edible parks.” One comment pointed out, “We have a food desert here - let’s use the land we have to be able to feed ourselves.”

ANSWER: By Matthew Stanfield of FiELD9: architecture: Rain gardens are intended as a means to slow and reduce the flow of stormwater runoff by providing a filter through which it runs. The plants that are typically suitable for this purpose are not generally considered edible. The fact that rain gardens are filtering pollutants out of stormwater make them not particularly suitable for growing food for consumption.

There are other opportunities to address the food dessert concerns. Notably, the OSU Microfarm initiative. There is currently a Microfarm in place at the Mansfield campus with plans to install more in the community this spring and another six next year.

QUESTION: Are there plans for any indoor recreation? One reader asked, “Is it just me, or does Mansfield have a lack of indoor recreational activities? Because to my knowledge there are no activities like indoor soccer, roller skating, ice skating, bowling, shuffleboard, etc.”

ANSWER By Leona Smith of the North End Community Improvement Collaborative: There is definitely a need for indoor recreation. With 0-19 year olds making up 23 percent of Mansfield and 25 percent of the county, it only makes sense to create spaces for young people.

Our community has done a great job of catering to younger demographics but over the decades, activities for teenagers have diminished. If you’re a kid from 13 to 19, there’s not a ton of fun activities for you and your friends to do after school and on the weekends. If we look at other communities that effectively engage young people they have places like bowling alleys, gaming arcades, roller skating rinks and other places for your people to gather with their tribe.

In talking with young people over the past year, many of them expressed wanting something to do and somewhere to go with their friends all year around which parks do not accommodate. There is definitely a need for a gathering space for young people in a range of ages that is safe and welcoming and that facilitates gainful interactions among our youth. The need is definite and deserving for our young people while the location and funding has yet to be determined.

QUESTION: Readers NOTED there used to be community pools all around Mansfield - why were they closed and removed? Moving forward, why not have more than one pool?

"Have you considered Liberty Park as an option for a new community pool/center? There is plenty of land, parking, convenient, and the tennis courts and soccer areas could be improved.”

ANSWER: By Maura Teynor of the Richland County Foundation: The reason the community pools closed in Mansfield was the high cost to repair them. The City of Mansfield Parks Department is currently evaluating all of its parks and Liberty Pool.

The Mansfield Rising Plan is open to either one large aquatics center or a couple of smaller pools or splash pads. The location(s) have not been evaluated or decided; Liberty Park could be an option.

QUESTION A pool connected to a community center was one idea in both the plan and reader questions. “It seems like Mansfield already has several community centers housed in old schools throughout the city - how would those differ from building a new one? Perhaps with more public awareness, support and funds could be funneled to these existing entities for restoration and beautification, and services could be expanded?”

ANSWER: by Leona Smith of the North End Community Improvement Collaborative: Currently, the city operates one pool, which is scarcely operational and could use some work but the issue with its location is accessibility. There used to be at least four operational community pools aside from Linden just one decade ago in different areas of the city which allowed young people access close to home.

At this point, unless you live near Linden Pool which is on the East side of Mansfield, you’re probably not visiting unless you have friends or family providing transportation. I think combining a pool with a rehabilitated or newly constructed community center is a smart use of resources.  

There are some programs operating in smaller groups around the city but none of them have the funding nor staff to operate at a capacity to fill this need for the entire community. Providing necessary funds for beautification and operations is a great idea and an efficient use of resources. Wherever the space happens to be, either new construction or rehabilitation, it should be accessible to young people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and abilities.

QUESTION: The last part of the conversation about fun regards the introduction of a skate park on Day 22. Readers asked, do kids skateboard much these days? Has Mansfield considered acquiring the Tony Hawk Skate Park grant?

ANSWER: By Nikki Lewis of the Richland Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development: Great question. I followed the public's response to this idea when it was released and it was wonderful to see everyone jump behind this one.

So kids these days could utilize a skate park for a number of reasons, like skateboarding, rollerblading, BMX riding, and riding their scooters. It doesn’t have to just be skateboarding. The idea behind this though would be to provide our youth a place to come together and have fun ... innocent, safe and healthy fun.

I know that shortly after this idea was released to the public, that a group of people gathered at Relax, led by Amanda Stanfield and began discussions on making this a reality. One big part of this discussion is: Where would this skatepark be located?

We need to make sure that it is a good central location. We have plenty of open lots that could be transformed for this project. Then comes funding for this idea, and there are a couple organizations that we can reach out to for funding like the Tony Hawk Skate Park Grant and even the Street League Skateboarding Foundation.

QUESTION: What are the plans for other areas of Mansfield? Are there any plans to buy distressed properties surrounding downtown Mansfield? How does the Mansfield Rising plan affect more than just the downtown area? 

ANSWER: By Jodie Perry of the Richland Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development: Strengthening the core of the city has been an effective economic development strategy all over the country. As the area grows and rebounds, it also helps the whole community.

However, we are also working very hard to help other areas of the community as well. The Chamber has a separate strategic plan that targets economic, workforce and community development.

We have a group that is also working on strengthening the Miracle Mile, and there are many other organizations such as NECIC, who are focusing on other areas of town. I think we believe strongly that we are trying to do this in a complementary fashion to other work being done, not at the expense of other parts of the community. 

QUESTION: “What can the city of Ontario (and other surrounding cities) do to help with this effort, as we feel a strong downtown benefits our whole area?”

ANSWER: By Jay Allred of Idea Works and Richland Source: A couple of things come to mind for nearby cities and towns with this “we’re stronger together” mindset. One, when you’re about to duplicate an asset that exists in Downtown Mansfield, ask yourself, “Is there a collaborative opportunity here that leverages the existing asset in Mansfield AND benefits our residents?”

An easy example is the Final Friday concert series, which brings in thousands for each show. Duplicating this event and setting is energy that could be spent making the existing asset even better. If surrounding cities and villages decided to make Mansfield a night out in the “little big city,” whole groups of people might be introduced to a nightlife they normally don’t experience.

The same could be said for dining, live entertainment, and nightlife. 

QUESTION: What is in place to ensure these ideas won’t get bogged down in endless meetings between a dozen people whose schedules never line up? How do we prevent “death by committee?”

ANSWER: By Allie Watson of the Richland County Foundation: The good news is the ideas are already laid out with good detail to get the ball rolling. We have commitments from the 15 of us to participate in the projects depending on our own interests and with the compiled list of potential partners. The contact list is set.  

Committees would need to assemble, determine a timeline and then move the ideas forward. We’re hopeful by listing potential partners on every project there are interested and invested parties at the table ready to move.

QUESTION: Are hard copies of the document available to the community? If so, where can we obtain one?

ANSWER: By Allie Watson of the Richland County Foundation: We were intentional in how we chose to distribute the plan. We were familiar with the binders on bookshelves around town filled with plans. We did not want the ideas and input of so many people to be confined to a few offices.

With the plan living online it is accessible to anyone interested in reading it. Our hope is that people will not just read the plan and close it out, but they will find parts of the plan that speak to them and where they can see themselves getting engaged.

And we’ve already seen this with the number of people who have reached out to us saying, “I’m interested in helping out. Here are my strengths and why I’m interested in this particular project. How can I help?” Which is great and exactly what we were hoping to accomplish.

This cannot be one person’s plan or one organization’s plan. It’s too big and too comprehensive. We need to rely on the expertise we have in our own backyard to move this plan forward.

Read the plan online here.

QUESTION: How does a “regular citizen” fit into the Mansfield Rising strategic plan? How can the community get involved?

ANSWER: By Jodie Perry of the Richland Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development: One of the most exciting parts of this project has been seeing the energy and enthusiasm people have had for the work being done. We definitely want to harness that and get more people involved.

Because we “flipped the script” on writing the plan, we are also carving a new path in how it is implemented. We’re working on ways for people to plug directly in, track progress, and/or even roll up their sleeves to help. While we figure that out, I would say there are a couple ways that a “regular citizen” can get involved:

  1. Be an ambassador for all the great things that are happening right now in Mansfield. There is real momentum building now, and I believe we will look back on this time as a turning point for our community. Help us by speaking positively, and encouragingly about our city. It’s not perfect yet (hint: there is no perfect community) but there are a lot of great things happening.

  2. Support the merchants, restaurants and businesses that are already invested in downtown. Buying goods and services from these local businesses really makes a difference.

  3. Introduce others to downtown. I love bringing friends from surrounding communities to Mansfield and showing them all the amazing things that we have … and they are always excited by that. Imagine the impact if we all started bringing people downtown more often?

  4. Let us know if you have an interest in helping. You can certainly reach out to Jodie at the Chamber or Allie at the Foundation if something really interests you. We can’t promise that every project is going to be worked on immediately, but we would love to connect with you and add you to our mailing list so that when we are ready for more help, we can let you know.

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