Bowling Green City Council on Sept. 18 got a look at the Pedestrian Experience Plan, containing new possibilities for the city’s downtown.
“It’s my belief that this is the just beginning,” Mayor Mike Aspacher said. “I think that this plan does create some actionable items and I hope that we do just that, that we’ll take some action on some of these things.”
The plan arose from the Downtown Forward initiative, which began in August of last year – a collaboration between the city and Bowling Green State University’s Center for Regional Development which, according to a release, was aimed at enhancing “placemaking in downtown Bowling Green.”
The city’s work with the CRD emerged from it being chosen to be a part of the CRD’s Reimagining Rural Regions – or R3 – program. According to a presentation delivered by the CRD’s Melissa Hopfer, the 14-month Downtown Forward process included multiple rounds of citizen and stakeholder engagement, data analyses and research, driven by a 16-member steering committee.
“The result is a Pedestrian Experience Plan that identifies potential improvements to create a more pedestrian-friendly and energized environment in downtown BG,” the presentation stated.
According to the PEP’s executive summary, the plan was created in order to enhance the walking experience and the walkability of the downtown area.
Hopfer noted that the steering committee took the data that emerged from the public engagement process, and arrived at three different areas that participants were excited about and wanted to know more about in terms of potentially implementing future projects: public art, signage and wayfinding, and alley beautification. They then researched case studies in those areas, Hopfer said, in order to provide information that city stakeholders could use to help “move the needle” on some of the potential projects.
According to the executive summary, public art project examples include projects such as murals and art installations that serve to beautify an area and attract pedestrians to an area of interest. Signage and wayfinding projects focus on making the downtown easier to navigate, as well as bring attention to certain places people may otherwise miss. Lastly, alley beautification emphasizes improving or activating alleyways so that alleys can have an identity and purpose in a downtown area.
The pedestrian experience plan seeks to provide inspiration and useful information for the Bowling Green community to begin to imagine the things that can be done to make downtown Bowling Green a more vibrant place to walk and navigate.
“The downtown has so much to offer residents and visitors, the ideas in this plan will enhanced these offerings and the experience people have on the way to their destination,” according to the summary.
A number of case studies were included in the presentation.
Alley beautification case studies included the City Thread and Passageways 2.0, both in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which centered on interactive artworks in the alleys, and the Alley Arches in Defiance, which are used as gateways to paths used by pedestrians in that city’s downtown.
Public art case studies included a mural gallery in Gahanna – an abandoned car wash turned into an art gallery – and the Greene Children’s Art Competition in Xenia, held to promote students’ artistic talents.
Signage and way finding case studies included a project in Sandusky to create new signage and branding to draw more people into the downtown, and another such project in Kent that emphasized “the expression of Kent’s unique personality in its signage.”
Aspacher said that he is aware some people are already working in some of these areas.
“I just want to encourage those that are working on some of things things to continue to work,” he said.
Aspacher said that conversations need to be had among the city administration, council and community partners to figure out how they can solidify a dynamic plan that will result in some tangible results.
“That is important to me. I don’t want it to just got on a shelf and gather dust,” he said.
“This was really, I think, in my view, always, step one in the Heritage 2025 concept that we had discussed almost two years ago, Aspacher continued. “I think that we just scratched the surface. … I think there are other opportunities that we need to do.,” he said.
Aspacher said he is committed to working with investors, property owners, and business owners in the downtown on how to continue conversations to ensure that they’re doing all they can with “this great asset in the middle of our community.”