June 29, 2016

Partly sunny

Medina looking to revitalize historic district

Bridget Commisso/Medina-Gazette
City resident Lee Jenny, an independent restorer, puts the final touches of paint around a store-front window at the corner of South Court and West Washington streets Thursday afternoon. Me-dina’s historic downtown is reflected in the window. The city is looking at the Main Street Ohio pro-gram to revitalize the central business and historic district.

MEDINA — City officials and residents are working to have a Columbus-based program help revitalize the city’s central business and historic district.
Efforts are under way to begin an application process to have the Main Street Ohio program develop the Public Square area while preserving the buildings.
“We’re trying to bring all factions of the community together: city hall, merchants, landlords, chamber of commerce, all associated with the historic district, to help us try to revitalize it,” said Edmund Wright, owner of Miss Molly’s Tea Room on West Washington Street. “We’re trying to make the historic district a focal point to bring people to the city.”
While Main Street USA is a national effort that has helped 2,000 communities, Main Street Ohio is a statewide program affiliated with Heritage Ohio. Since 2000, Main Street Ohio has assisted 37 communities, including Wooster, Elyria and Lakewood, in revitalizing their central business districts.
Main Street offers “a very specific template for commercial revitalization based on preservation,” said Joyce Barrett, director of preservation for Heritage Ohio. “A lot of communities choose to be Main Street towns, though, because the template has a lot of structure, but still offers a lot of flexibility.”
However, Heritage Ohio does not accept every city that applies for the program.
“The acceptance is based on a city’s readiness to succeed, combined with the capacity of our program,” Barrett said.
After officially filing its application by the Oct. 8 deadline, Medina will find out if it has been chosen as a Main Street city at an announcement ceremony Dec. 13 at the Statehouse in Columbus, according to Heritage Ohio’s Web site.
If accepted, the Main Street program would cost $3,000 a year. Barrett said Medina would receive $1,000 in government grants, leaving the cost of the program at $2,000 annually.
Greg Hannan, the city’s director of planning and community development, said Medina also would allocate $100,000 a year to execute the program.
Barrett said the budget in similar Main Street programs reaches $120,000 in later years.
Not all the funds, though, would come from the city. In what Barrett has described as “a public-private partnership,” the city would share financial responsibility with the public.
“The way that the Main Street Ohio looks at it is that the funding is anticipated to be done one-third by the city, one-third by business and one-third by contributions,” Wright said. “Whether Medina is going to be able to shake it this way, we don’t know.”
Medina embarked on the application process for Main Street Ohio on May 31 when the Downtown Assessment Resources Team addressed an assembly of 80 stakeholders in the community. The group conducted “visioning sessions to get the attendees to look at what they like most about the city and what their goals for the program are,” Hannan said.
DART also explained the points that structure the Main Street program.
In order to be considered, Main Street requires that the city begin work on four points of the community: organization, design, promotion and economic restructuring. Barrett explained these points work because “the community addresses what they need in their own community.”
On June 20, city officials and those who attended the May 31 meeting gathered to recap the DART session. They also assigned committees based on each of the four points and appointed committee heads. The new groups were asked to examine and make improvements in each respective area.
Wright, who was assigned to the promotion committee, said his group would aim to bring the city, chamber of commerce and local business advertisements together.
“What we’re trying to do is to get some kind of unanimity of effort. How to fill the voids and how to get the advertising more effective,” he said.
The head of each of the committees, along with seven other community members, will sit on the “ad hoc board,” which will oversee the program and make decisions until a permanent board is established.
A permanent board will be established in the fall, Hannan said.
Barrett said if the city is selected for the program, the board will have to hire a full-time, paid manager. Hannan said the manager would be hired in the winter when Heritage Ohio announces whether Medina has been selected for the Main Street program.
“The Main Street designation is a competitive process,” Hannan said. “If we don’t get the designation, then we’ll go forward with the program and start implementing a lot of the structural parts of it and reapply next fall.”
However, he added, “Based on the feedback we have had from Main Street Ohio and community support, I think we will get the designation.”
Kacik may be reached at 330-721-4046.