By JOY BROWN
Findlay’s Main Street and its intersecting streets should serve as a working, shopping, living and recreational hot spot rather than primarily as a pass-through corridor for people traveling elsewhere, young Findlay professionals said Wednesday.
The second of three public meetings about a proposed downtown traffic plan was focused on gathering opinions from members of the Findlay Young Professionals group, and the difference between what they prefer and what exists is stark.
Communities such as San Luis Obispo, Calif., Greenville, S.C., and Louisville, Ky., were mentioned by group members as desirable destinations that have incorporated design focusing more on non-vehicular travel and activities.
Some also said they would like to be able to shop here for higher-quality clothing such as suits and ties, for downtown’s vibrancy to last later into the night, and to have more selection when it comes to housing in the city’s core.
They’d like to see more family-friendly events there, too.
Retail turned out to be their top focus in a recent survey that asked how they’d like to see the downtown improve, although limited parking was also a concern expressed on Wednesday.
Their thoughts aligned with what city officials, economic development specialists, and planners are focusing on with a comprehensive downtown revitalization plan.
Traffic and parking changes would serve as a base from which to build upon, said Tim Mayle, assistant economic development director for the Findlay-Hancock County Alliance. Incorporated into the concept could be urban landscaping, signs to get people where they want to go, lighting, and building design that would blend with historic features.
“It’s about the quality of the downtown, the richness of the place,” said Craig Gossman of Gossman Group, a development company hired by the Alliance. “If you only have one criteria to measure success from, and that’s traffic, then we’re missing the boat. Downtown is not just streets. It’s a place,” he said.
Improving traffic patterns and parking will draw more businesses and people downtown, officials claim, which is what the Findlay Young Professionals said they want.
Outdoor dining, special events that are more frequent and varied, and even more company headquarters for professional opportunities would be nice, members said.
“We’re not looking at this as a means to accommodate drive-by traffic,” Gossman said. ” We’re looking to create a place for walk-by traffic.”
Service-Safety Director Paul Schmelzer compared the plans to a chicken-and-egg scenario.
“We’ve already seen what the egg looks like. We’re extremely fortunate to have the level of investment that we’re having right now. And if you listen to those investors, they’re saying that we need the chicken now. The last time we had the kind of activity that you’re describing on Main Street was back when we did have the angled parking, the downtown drugstore. That’s what we’re trying to recreate,” Schmelzer said.