Monroe residents want to keep the ‘small-town feel’ downtown

About 50 residents attended the second Downtown Master Plan meeting Monday night.

Years from now, maybe even 20, downtown Monroe may look a lot different than it does today.

Monroe hired KZF Design last year for $100,000 to work with city leaders, business owners and residents on an Advance Monroe 2024 Master Plan, called “a roadmap” by Tom Smith, the city’s director of development.

A fundamental part of that plan is the development of a Downtown District and a Downtown Master Plan will create a vision for downtown, including building façade concepts, streetscapes, pedestrian access, parking, and other public amenities, according to city documents.

The plan also will serve as the guiding document for anticipated growth, development and revitalization of the downtown area and will act as a framework for future ordinances and initiatives; including coordinated strategies to help reinvigorate the area and make it an attractive gathering place for people, the city said.

On Monday night, about 50 Monroe residents attended the second community forum to hear from KZF Design officials and city leaders about the progress of the master plan and to view several proposed designs for the downtown.

The process has included input from a steering committee, business owners, a public meeting and a project web site that gathered surveys from 220 residents, or less than 2% of the population.

Smith said the downtown plan will “evolve over time” and, depending on what residents want, may look totally different by the ground-breaking.

While the plans will certainly change, Smith said it’s important for the city “to take control of our destiny” by determining the best course for growth.

He said early reaction from residents has been mixed because “change is very hard” and the plan is “very aggressive” because it addresses much needed housing.

Clete Benken, director of landscape architecture at KZF, said while it’s imperative to “keep the Monroe brand,” the city needs to create more restaurants and shopping downtown and add housing opportunities so those residents can support those businesses.

Benken, whose firm has worked with the cities of Hamilton, Montgomery and Loveland and the Liberty Center project, called the city of Monroe a traditional farming town going through “growing pains” as it becomes part of the merger between Dayton and Cincinnati.

The best way to protect the surrounding farmland and “not destroy the sense of place” for residents is to create downtown housing, he said.

Julie Merland, who has lived in Monroe for 25 years, attended the meeting and said the city is “going in the right direction.” It needs downtown shops and restaurants to make the city a destination for visitors, she said. She wants Monroe to keep its “small-town feel.”

Michael Graves, a city council member, attended the meeting and said he’s glad the city and design team are listening to the recommendations from the residents. He hopes the city is able to fill the open spots downtown while retaining the city’s character.

People moved to Monroe “for a reason,” he said.


The city of Monroe is creating a Downtown Master Plan and so far has engaged a steering committee, business owners, residents and surveyed residents on a web site. Here are eight things Monroe residents want in the plan.

  • More things to do
  • More places to eat, drink, shop and live
  • Preserve the small town feel
  • Promote connectivity and safety
  • Create central gathering space
  • Establish an identity
  • Provide community facilities
  • Improve visual appeal


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