SIDNEY — Development along the Great Miami River has come a long way in the past decade, and local leaders hope to build on that progress through current and future collaboration.
Multiple city, state, and county officials, along with local businesses and developers, shared ideas about how to best cultivate that growth during Friday’s annual Great Miami Riverway Summit.
Led by the Miami Conservancy District, the Great Miami Riverway’s mission is to promote growth along the banks of the river — both economic development and recreational opportunities for residents and visitors.
The river starts at Indian Lake, then flows through so many local cities — Sidney, Piqua, Troy, Tipp City, Vandalia, Dayton, Moraine, West Carrollton, Miamisburg, Franklin, Middletown and Hamilton — on its way to the Ohio River west of Cincinnati.
“The idea is that if these communities (along the river) can work together to promote the river, promote the trail system, and promote investment in these riverway communities, that we’ll be better off by doing that together,” Great Miami Riverway Director Dan Foley said Friday.
Over $500 million in riverfront investments have been completed over the last 10 years in communities along the Great Miami River, Foley said.
In the Dayton area, the city of West Carrollton partnered last year with developers to announce a multi-phase river district project, which includes proposals for hotel, retail and restaurant developments, professional and medical office spaces, and townhomes along the eastern portion of the river front, with a waterfront-oriented entertainment district and marina.
In Miamisburg, the former DP&L coal plant off Chautauqua Road, which shut down in 2013, is being transformed into a 200-acre mixed-use development expected to have both residential and recreational features.
“Some of the buildings on this river have outgrown their past use ... I imagine there are people who drive by that former Dayton Power & Light plant and think it’s just going to rust in place,” Foley said. “We’re now seeing example after example of properties that have a higher and better use (through this) investment.”
Miamisburg Mayor Michelle Collins said during Friday’s summit that work is scheduled to begin next week on the final phases of its Riverfront Park development.
“The park has a great function in our city, but it’s not done,” Collins said, highlighting that the city will pay $4.5 million to complete the park over the next year.
Both Foley and Collins noted these types of publicly funded projects can lead the way to further growth through private sector investment.
“It builds confidence for people who come downtown and start a business, and for those businesses that are already there, to take advantage of what the river and historic downtowns have to offer,” Collins said. “... It just takes a collaboration between cities and private business owners to really make things happen.”
A theme throughout the summit was to increase the river area’s desirability to businesses and tourists, while also enticing local residents to reap the benefits of living in these waterway communities.
According to the Miami Conservancy District’s Sarah Hippensteel Hall, MCD is working this year with students from the University of Dayton’s “river stewards” program on efforts to make the river corridor more equitable.
A group of UD river stewards attended Friday’s summit and solicited comments from attendees about ways to improve the river area for recreational use. Submitted ideas included adding more safe access points to the river, maintaining green space with consistent maintenance, and alleviating barriers to accessibility with things like wheelchair-accessible viewpoints.
Matt Lindsay of the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission said another important initiative would be to learn about people within river communities who do not use the river recreationally or those who may not have access.
“What is the perception of the river and what are the barriers? Then, ultimately ... adjust and do what is needed to make the river more attractive,” Lindsay said.