Bellbrook seeking to improve downtown with new streetscape

Bellbrook is looking to bring new life to its downtown with a streetscape project that the town’s city manager called overdue.

“Residents definitely want to see downtown advance and become more vibrant,” City manager Melissa Dodd said.

The city have requested proposals from urban design engineering firms to do the streetscape project. Dodd said proposals are due by 3 p.m. on March 19.

The city hopes to get proposals that will have designs that preserve the character and history of the city and provide “vibrant, welcoming public spaces that encourage community building and accommodate persons of all ages and demographics throughout the year,” according to the request for proposals.

“We want to preserve the look and feel of downtown, just enhance it,” Dodd said.

Dodd said Bellbrook for a long time was focused in on doing things that kept the city running, like water or keeping police and fire uniforms up-to-date. These things are still a priority, but Dodd said city council has had a recent shift in priorities to include projects that will improve the downtown.

After Dodd was hired as city manager in 2018, the city updated its comprehensive plan and adopted a new one in 2019. The plan serves as a guide to revitalization efforts. When the plan was being developed, community input was specifically focused on improving the downtown area.

Dodd said the city hopes to enhance walkability and connectivity from residential neighborhoods to the downtown area. Dodd hopes to improve sidewalks and crosswalks.

The streetscape would focus mostly on Franklin and Main streets.

The new streetscape should incorporate landscaping that includes trees and native vegetation as well as upgrading streetlights, benches and garbage and recycling cans. Dodd said she also hopes that the streetscape design will help integrate Bellbrock Park.

Dodd said the proposals should be structured so that they can be implemented in a three-year step. After a firm is selected for the project, Dodd said design should take six months.

Jodi Martin, the director of the Bellbrook Sugarcreek Chamber of Commerce and a Bellbrook native, said the downtown has not changed for as long as she can remember.

“Everybody talks about downtown and what we could do to make it look better,” Martin said.

Martin said if the downtown was appealing to the eye, it would make more people want to spend time there. Martin said she hopes streetscape could bring more outside seating options.

“Bellbrook is an end destination,” Martin said. “Nobody comes here just because. Even bringing things like boutiques... if we had places to go shop and sit outside and have a cup of coffee, I think our community would do that. My vision for downtown would be little shops where people could go in and out and have a cup of coffee if they wanted, grab a glass of wine, or a beer and sit outside. But it needs to be appealing to the eye first.”

Martin said after streetscape starts downtown, a plan needs to be put in place to attract new businesses and the chamber and city need to figure out how to support those businesses.

A study was done on parking in the downtown, which found there is enough for residents and visitors to got to businesses, Martin said.

“It’s a cute little downtown, it’s just reaching out to people to let them know what’s available,” Martin said.

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