By Maura TeynorJanuary 25, 2021
Progress on the Mansfield Rising Project
In 2018, the Richland County Foundation leadership took an unusual track to develop an investment strategy for downtown Mansfield. Instead of hiring a professional consulting firm, it had a citizen-led group create the plan.
The Foundation turned regular citizens into consultants which gives depth and authenticity to the plan. It provides a road map for projects and opportunities for partnerships to continue the renaissance of Mansfield.
The vision is for Mansfield to become an optimal place to conduct business, gather, and live. This vision can be achieved through five key areas: effective land use, wayfinding, technical assistance for business, branding and marketing, and safety.
The Guiding Principles of the plan are: downtown is everyone’s neighborhood, big city amenities with a small-town feel, sustainable change happens incrementally, and placemaking is economic development.
This is a plan for any organization, business, citizen, or group looking to get involved. To be successful, this must be a comprehensive effort.
Costs range from sweat equity to millions of dollars. The Foundation will continue to lead, convene, guide, and fund efforts that support this plan. It will be implemented at various speeds and through various organizations with a result of a better downtown.
Upgrade the City’s Main Arteries
Mansfield City Council approved a design plan to improve Main Street. It aligns with the Mansfield Rising Plan to upgrade the city’s main arteries. None of the main arteries leading to downtown Mansfield are beautiful. They are car-focused pathways through industrial centers, distressed neighborhoods, and business-zoned urban centers. Objective beauty and walkability must be a priority. The North and South Main Street, East and West 4th Street, Park Avenue East and West, must be improved and maintained as key entrances to downtown. They are the front door to our downtown. In 2019, the city converted Mulberry Street to two-way traffic. Mansfield City Council also approved a plan to convert Diamond Street to two-way traffic in 2021. These changes will create a more walkable downtown.
Improve the Look of Businesses in Downtown
The Downtown Mansfield, Inc. Facade Improvement Fund received grant funding from the Foundation and Mansfield City Council. The matching grants will be awarded to building owners to make improvements. This will assist economic development and the rehabilitation of historic properties in downtown Mansfield. The funds will be administered by a committee consisting of individuals from the historic preservation commission, architects, designers, and community members to provide guidance and resources on facade improvements. The resources provided in conjunction with the grants will make for quality restorations and renovations consistent with community standards.
Public Art Project
The Richland Community Development Group Art Sector is leading a public art initiative in downtown Mansfield. The project will be funded by various businesses and organizations with a 50% matching grant from the Richland County Foundation as part of its Mansfield Rising Project.
During this public art initiative in downtown Mansfield, up to $50,000 in matching funds will be made available to businesses, nonprofits, and sponsors to help in funding the creation of art in a variety of methods, including traditional painted murals, installed artistic wallscapes, window art, as well as temporary and permanent public art on visible walls and surfaces.
Organizations and artists in the area are encouraged to apply to take part in this transformative and revitalizing effort to beautify and create impact downtown through art. The artists and organizations who apply for matching funding for public art projects will be vetted by a panel of local individuals.
The Branding Committee began work to create a brand for the community in 2019, but it was halted due to the pandemic. The Committee hopes to continue its work in 2021. The purpose of branding Mansfield is to weave a powerful and positive story to raise awareness about why this is a great place to live and conduct business. Beyond raising awareness outside the city limits, a brand and positive message could improve the story Mansfield residents recite about their city. It could promote civic pride. Elements of a branding campaign include the creation of a brand and message, coordinating stakeholder websites and identification of a key person to manage and care for the brand.
To read the plan go to richlandcountyfoundation.org, click “Community Impact,” then the “Mansfield Rising” tab.