A packed room full of residents, property owners and people who work in Ravenna voiced their ideas Tuesday on what the city's downtown should look like in the future.
The group gathered at City Hall to discuss the future use of 76 acres of land in downtown Ravenna surrounding Main Street.
Last year, Ravenna became one of six communities in Ohio to receive funding from the state's Brownfield Action Plan Pilot Program. The $50,000 grant studied a 220-acre area of the city bordered by North Diamond and North Prospect streets, Lincoln Avenue and West Main Street. That study brought representatives from Ohio's Development Services Agency to Ravenna to lead the group in an interactive discussion of what they need and want in the downtown.
"Main Street is really the spine of the city," said Diane Alecusan of the state agency. "We see a lot of activity here. But from the feedback we've received so far, it's not living up to its potential."
She said the "brownfields" in the city are merely properties that have hazards or contaminants that limit their re-use.
"It's not doomsday for your community," she said, showing the group examples of former brownfields in other towns that have become centers of activity.
Attendees were split into three groups, and voiced similar themes about Ravenna's needs. Many people said Ravenna needs more places for people to gather, including parks, coffee shops and upscale restaurants. Some said Ravenna needs more parking, and stores that are open later. They suggested that Ravenna better utilize its assets of historic buildings, Robinson Memorial Hospital, and the fact that it is the county seat. And many expressed a desire for a better nightlife, outdoor concerts at parks, and better "branding" for the city.
Community Development Director Kerry Macomber said the city will continue to develop its plan based on the input at the meeting. She said she was encouraged by the strong turnout and the engaged responses, saying, "I couldn't have asked for a better public meeting."
"This is really just the beginning," she said. "This is a good place to start."
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I called Ms. Macomber once to offer some suggestions for downtown
businesses. She was extremely rude to me.