East Green project unveiled by SIEDC

Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corp. released its 2016 strategic growth and development plan at the second annual Downtown Summit Wednesday night.

The plan listed 22 catalytic projects in various stages of development for downtown Tiffin.

SIEDC President and CEO David Zak said two projects are active.

"We are working on a mixed-use infill on the old site of the Stalsworth Hotel (25 E. Market St.)," he said. "I want to compliment the city of Tiffin for having the foresight to buy these buildings."

Zak said he was not able to give further details about future use of the site.

"This stuff doesn't happen overnight," he said.

Zak said the second project considered active is the East Green project.

The project is to establish a community gathering place along East Market Street across from East Tower, 109 Jefferson St.

Zak said the project could be completed in 12-18 months. He said he has had discussions with Andrew Kalnow, who owns the land for the prospective park.

"The best words are really just to look (at the artist's renderings)," he said.

Kalnow said he wondered why there was "an urban wasteland" in the middle of downtown.

"Is anybody proud of that area?" he asked. "You drive by it and you don't even notice it anymore."

Kalnow praised SIEDC and local government for paying attention to the aesthetic quality of downtown.

"After the old courthouse went down, we saw downtown in a much more radiant light," he said.

Kalnow said he hopes to see the East Green become a true park.

"I'd love to turn it over at that point," he said. "I feel sympathetic to that cause. There are lots of possibilities. Obviously, I'm a little excited about this."

Kalnow said Tiffin has not always earned the best reputation.

"But there's a way to put that behind us," he said. "The people in this room are making it happen. I'm pledging to make it happen."

Craig Gossman, principle owner of Gossman Group, the consultant company that teamed with SIEDC on the plan, said he was excited to see progress downtown.

"Being involved in the 2010 plan, there is quite a buzz that's going on now," he said. "Going back to 2008 and 2009, there really wasn't."

Gossman said the 2010 Downtown Strategic Plan started off revitalization of downtown in a positive way.

"That plan set a lot of things in motion," he said. "We took it beyond, 'we love Tiffin' to getting people involved."

Zak quoted former President Dwight D. Eisenhower to explain his thoughts on the plan.

"'Plans are worthless, but, planning is everything,'" he said.

Gossman said the 40-page 2016 plan, which can be found online at seneca

success.wordpress.com, contains ideas for the community and more substantive plans.

"We want to try to make this an action-oriented and friendly environment," he said.

Gossman discussed plans for a mixed-use project targeting college students.

He also announced a "Tiffin Flats" project.

"It might not be now, but there is an opportunity in the coming years," he said. "There is a swell going on downtown. Those who are interested in living downtown, but don't want to climb the stairs to move in, will still have a place to live and play near downtown."

Gossman said the project is proposed as a four-story infill structure with about 60 apartments.

"It's not meant to be luxury housing, but would have one-to-three floors of flats with a ground floor lobby," he said.

Gossman said all projects have challenges.

"Perhaps not today, but soon, Tiffin will be ready for projects like this," he said. "This is an opportunity to bring other types of housing into downtown."

Gossman said when the initial 2010 plan was developed, some community members thought several one-way streets needed to be changed.

"For Market and Perry streets, it didn't make sense to convert those (to two-way streets)," he said. "It would be challenging and expensive."

Gossman said the 2016 plan targets Jefferson and Monroe streets as areas of focus.

"More two-way streets leads to better circulation," he said. "We want to connect the universities to downtown."

Gossman said areas on the riverfront near Kiwanis Manor and South Washington Street deserve more attention.

He mentioned a promenade along the river, new housing and bridge enhancements.

"We want to take back from the road and give back some room to pedestrians," he said.

Before Gossman presented the 2016 plan, SIEDC members presented information about progress made in the past few years.

Downtown Main Street Manager of SIEDC Amy Reinhart said 70 percent of tasks from the 2010 plan were ongoing, under way or completed as of Wednesday night.

She said in 2015, 11 new businesses were established downtown.

"My favorites calls are when someone calls and says, 'I've seen what's going on, find me a spot,'" she said.

Reinhart said 28 businesses participated in a discount card for college students.

She also said $705,900 was invested in 17 facade enhancement projects downtown.

"I love going downtown," she said. "So many great projects are going on."

She said final numbers for 2016 will reach about $1.14 million over 37 projects.

Reinhart said The Building Doctor will come to Tiffin July 21-22 to work on 10 buildings.

"Tiffin is one of five cities they are visiting in Ohio," she said.

Reinhart said businesses with buildings built before 1955 are eligible for the contest and can contact SIEDC for an application.