Imagine a walkable community, flourishing with businesses, entertainment and housing, to attract young professionals and college students. What would it look like? Fresh modern architecture or something that would blend in harmony with adjacent woodlands?
Community leaders are meeting to define the area on Lexington Springmill Road near The Ohio State University at Mansfield and North Central State College that has come to be called the Campus District project.
Representatives of the cities of Mansfield and Ontario, Richland County, Richland Community Development Group, Richland County Regional Planning, Ohio State Mansfield and North Central State College, Richland Young Professionals and the Richland Area Chamber of Commerce have agreed to form a small working group to create a vision statement and definition for the Campus District. They will also identify needs such as site improvements and identify potential funding sources.
“We need to create the vision first,” said Ohio State Mansfield Dean and Director Stephen Gavazzi at a recent meeting. “If we are not in agreement about what we want to see, no planning tool will get us where we want to go. Mansfield, Ontario, Richland County as a whole, our students, and young professionals living in the area, all should come together in agreement. Then long-term, the project will take on a life of its own.”
Young professionals are of special interest to the group because of the proximity to the campus. Campus officials hope that students from outside the local area who attend either institution will embrace the quality of life the area could offer and decide to stay longer.
“The old philosophy of wait until a job opens up – people don’t do that anymore,” says Brian White, planner and project manager at Ohio State Mansfield. “Young professionals go where they want to live and then figure out how to make a living. That’s probably the biggest paradigm shift that people don’t understand in economic development. They will create the economic growth if you provide the environment for them to come.”
The land adjacent to the Lexington Springmill campus entrance lies in Ontario. Officials plan to hire an architect to create a zoning overlay, a defined area that would detail a general look for the district.
Ontario Mayor Randy Hutchinson explained in a recent meeting that the goal is for the zoning to be business-friendly, not too restrictive, but still have a cohesive look and feel.
A key component of the project is the relocation of the existing campus entrance.
Paperwork has been submitted to Ohio State that lays out all the criteria for design of the new road, the right of way, as well as environmental concerns and costs. Once the paperwork is reviewed, the project will enter the schematic design phase to refine the details of the entrance road.
“At that point, during the schematic design phase, that’s when we start integrating our new entrance on a much more detailed level with the Campus District,” White said. “How does it tie in, where do the roads go, where do the utilities go?”
About half the funding has been raised to build the road. The hope is that through integrating the projects, more opportunities for funding will surface.