Wednesday, July 04, 2001

Mason revitalization gets boost

Consultants are hired to work with volunteers

By Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — Plans for a downtown renaissance have received a boost.

        City Council agreed to pay $79,000 to Poggemeyer Design Group of Bowling Green, Ohio, to complete a revitalization plan and market study to strengthen the city's central business district.

        Poggemeyer will analyze and make recommendations for traffic, zoning, infrastructure, streetscaping and building facade designs.

        “We're really excited because the fruit of our labor is starting to get some wind in its sail,” said Linda Fitzgerald, a consultant hired by the city two years ago.

        The consultant group will work with the Downtown Mason Revitalization Committee, a group of about 70 volunteers, to create a gathering center of retail, office, cultural entertainment and residential housing in downtown Mason.

        “Historic preservation will be a critical compoment of our downtown plan,” Ms. Fitzgerald said.

        Councilwoman Betty Davis said revitalizing downtown will re-establish it as the community center.

        “It's really important to establish it because it still is the focal point to persons who reside in Mason,” said Ms. Davis. “They look to downtown as being the cen ter of town. The identity thing is very important.”

        Once a thriving hub of the community, the downtown district has seen its glory days fade. While parts of Mason have exploded with growth thanks to a strong economy and migration to the suburbs, downtown has failed to keep pace.

        Efforts two years ago by a Mason citizens' group to gather resident comments on downtown failed amid allegations that it planned to tear down businesses and houses downtown. The group, Citizens for Downtown Mason, disbanded after downtown property owners accused it of a hidden agenda.

        CDM's initiative was the third downtown redevelopment effort to fail in Mason in recent years.

        Ms. Davis said the results will be different this time because the professional consultants will be a catalyst for implementing the committee's vision.

        In the past, “it's always been some smaller group's vision of what they want to see. There were always so many factions that it was never able to be brought into a cohesive whole,” Ms. Davis said.

        The marketing study will be completed in August, and the comprehensive plan is due in January.

        Councilman Peter Beck said downtown needs to be revitalized for the existing businesses but also to attract a mix of businesses.

        “It's going to be a long-term process,” Mr. Beck said. “This is not something that's going to happen in a year or two.”


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