Downtown Middletown Inc. has chosen planning and architecture consultants OHM Advisors to create a downtown master plan that will determine how the city’s core should brand itself, and what Middletown people want it to look and feel like in coming years.
DMI Executive Director Mallory Greenham, who announced the hiring, said people from the community who met with three consulting firms filled out surveys afterward, and “the survey results that came in were overwhelmingly in support of OHM.”
“The presentation that they gave, they were knowledgeable about Middletown — I think that’s why they rose to the top,” Greenham said. “They had taken a tour, they had done their homework, they are excited to do it, and we’re excited to work with them.”
The master plan will look at many aspects of the downtown, and will cost about $40,000, with half coming from city government and the rest from community sources.
OHM has 11 locations in Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, including Columbus, where the two consultants who will handle the Middletown work are based.
The company has won rave reviews from Sandra Hull, executive director of Main Street Wooster, Ohio’s longest continuously operating program of its type. OHM recently created for the city of Wooster a 10-year update of the community’s comprehensive plan. During that work, citizens strongly called for the continued redevelopment of the city’s downtown, Hull said.
“As a result of that, the city then decided that they needed a Downtown Wooster Strategic Plan for the next five years,” which recently was finished, Hull said. “They gave a number of concepts that we are literally starting this year, and it’s most exciting.”
What makes OHM stand out among consulting firms is “their planning and their consulting is unique to each community, and they really care about each community,” Hull said. “They treat it with the respect, and also the respect of your particular resources that you have (as a community).”
“I think they (Middletown people) will find that it’s a very positive experience,” Hull said.
Greenham has said Middletown citizens will be invited to give plenty of input between when the work begins in coming weeks and October, when officials hope it will be finished. To receive emails inviting your feedback as the plan is developed, sign up at www.downtownmiddletown.org.
Vice Mayor Dora Bronston was among those who listened to presentations from the three consulting firms, and, “that was my choice, also,” she said. “Their presentation was very impressive. Also, I looked at the booklets that were available for us to review of previous work they had done, and from what I saw, I enjoyed their train of thought, the process by which the city would be able to actually change.”
Bronston was impressed that the consultants were “not there to give us answers, but they stimulated a lot of thought.” She also likes that the company will be most interested in learning what Middletown people think the future of the downtown should be.
“I want to see in the people’s minds, what do they want downtown to look like?” Bronston said. “Do you want to see something more modern? Do you want to retain some form of traditional setting downtown? I’m anxious to see what the people see.”
In Wooster, “We have a downtown that we have been developing for over 29 years, and this plan actually is not starting over, it’s just celebrating the evolvement that we’ve had,” Hull said. “We’re going to be redoing some of the streetscape, and bringing the maintenance of that up to speed (among several other projects). OHM’s Wooster study also predicted a demand for 200 downtown housing units during the next five years, she added.