Sunday, October 22, 2000

People sought for streetscape panel

By Walt Schaefer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        READING —— Street people are wanted here.

        Mayor Earl Schmidt is looking to form a grass-roots committee of nine to 12 citizens and business owners to help develop a streetscape plan for the Reading Road corridor.

        “We have a Reading Road land-use plan in place, city council has approved $30,000 for a citywide zoning review starting with Reading Road and this is the third element in our planning efforts to revitalize the key thoroughfare through our community,” the mayor said.

        Steve Goessling, owner of the Reading IGA, has agreed to serve on the panel.

        “At this point, I'm brand new to this and have no specifics about what we are going to do. But, I am dedicated to the future of Reading Road and, since I have a vested interest in it, I'd like to be involved in its redevelopment. Reading Road needs attention,” Mr. Goessling said.

        The mayor will continue to accept applications to serve on the committee through October 27.

        The city has retained Vivian Llambi & Associates, landscape and architectural consultants, along with JMA Engineering Consultants Inc. to oversee the streetscape planning. City council has approved $69,900 for the plan to be finished by February, the mayor said.

        The steering committee will report recommendations to the consultants and city council, said Mr. Schmidt, a Democrat.

        Safety Service Director Mike Rahall said money from the restored property tax approved by council in August will be used to pay off bonds issued to fund the streetscape plan and zoning review.

        Five years ago, council rolled back the tax rate from 3.5 mills to 1.76 mills. Council's August action restored the tax rate to 3.5 mills with the caveat that the $300,000 the tax restoration will generate annually be used only for capital-improvement programs.

        Republican Councilman Tony Gertz, instrumental in helping launch the redevelopment strategy, could not be reached for comment.

        The consultants have divided the project into four phases — the first targeting the six-block heart of the Reading Road retail strip from Vorhees Street north to Columbia Avenue and including the central intersection of Benson Street with Reading Road.

        “This is a critical commercial and retail section that has the most deterioration. It has older buildings in need of help, buildings with facades a few feet from the street curb. It is vital to urban renewal plans,” Mr. Schmidt said.

        Other phases of the plans will focus on the south city limits to Ronald Reagan Highway; Ronald Reagan to Vorhees Street and Columbia Avenue to Cooper Road.

        The city could opt to fund part or all of the streetscape or city council could require developers to include the plan specifications be met as part of construction, the mayor said.

        To volunteer for the streetscape steering committee, call Mayor Earl Schmidt, 733-3725 or leave a message at the city's Web site:



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