Downtown Mansfield has been on a revitalization path since 1991 when the Richland Carrousel Park opened. During the planning, many people in the community scoffed at the idea that a wooden carrousel could improve downtown. Twenty-eight years later, most would agree it was a fantastic idea. Since then, many improvements have been made in downtown. But it has not reached critical mass with regards to development and investment. The Mansfield Rising Plan offers ways to get there.
The Richland County Foundation will use the Mansfield Rising Plan to prioritize its investments in downtown. Braintree Business Development Center, Destination Mansfield, Downtown Mansfield Inc., Mansfield City Council, North Central State College, North End Community Improvement Collaborative, Richland Area Chamber of Commerce, Richland Community Development Group, Richland County Commissioners and Richland County Regional Planning all have voted to support the Mansfield Rising Plan.
Last year, the Foundation leadership took an unusual track to develop an investment strategy for downtown. 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 Downtown Mansfield,” said Richland County Foundation President Brady Groves.
With the assistance of Richland Area Chamber of Commerce President Jodie Perry and Richland Source President Jay Allred, the Richland County Foundation leadership selected a diverse and qualified group of 15 individuals who were willing to commit nearly a year of their lives to develop the Mansfield Rising Plan. The Foundation awarded a grant to send the group to the South by Southwest Conference (SXSW) in Austin, TX, last year. SXSW is a world-renowned thought and ideas festival that brings the sharpest minds in government, technology, business, and entertainment together in one place. The goal was for the team to come back with ideas to improve the downtown.
The Foundation engaged the Greater Ohio Policy Center to provide guidance for the plan. GOPC develops and advances policies and practices that value urban cores and metropolitan regions as economic drivers and preserve Ohio’s open space and farmland. Through advocacy, research, outreach, and education, GOPC strives to create a policy and political climate to allow communities to stabilize and thrive for statewide economic growth.
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.
“I’m proud to have been part of the leadership team for Mansfield Rising. I believe that what makes this initiative different is the strong collaboration amongst all the organizations who have been involved. The Chamber looks forward to helping to bring Mansfield Rising to life,” said Perry.
This is a plan for any organization, business, citizen, or group looking to get involved. In order to be successful, this must be a comprehensive effort. The execution phase will be just as collaborative as the development one.
“The plan and the energy its generated is a great example of what can be accomplished when nobody cares who gets the credit,” said Allred.
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 an end result of a better downtown.
February 28, 2019