Vandalia using zoning, incentives in goal to build vibrant downtown

Vandalia city officials are setting the scene for development of a centralized downtown area they hope will be brimming with businesses, restaurants, bars and luxury loft apartments.

City council last month agreed to implement the Vandalia City Center Overlay into the zoning map. The overlay district encompasses a section of Dixie Drive from Elva Court up to West National Road, then east, including part of Maple Street, and along National Road, ending before Bohanon Drive.

“There’s been this desire for decades for the city of Vandalia to have a discernable downtown area where people can come to eat, to shop, to have professional offices and maybe a medium-density type of housing option that’s centered around the amenities,” said City Manager Dan Wendt.

Overlay zoning is a tool used to establish certain regulations and permitted uses for an area in addition to the underlying zoning district. In Vandalia, it will promote development of a downtown area by allowing certain businesses and residential properties to locate within the district.

“We think there is really good opportunity now for redevelopment of this area, and what we’re working on doing at the city is creating the right type of environment and incentives for development,” Wendt said. “One of the proactive measures that we’re taking is to work with the businesses to, in some cases, expand the uses that are permitted.”

Permitted uses for businesses within the downtown overlay district include medical/dental clinics; micro-level breweries, distilleries or wineries; sit-down restaurants; coffee shops or cafes; boutique-style hotels or bed and breakfasts, and mixed-use buildings.

Prohibited uses for business development would include loan and cash advance establishments, laundromats, pawn shops, auto repair establishments, and tattoo parlors.

Wendt said there are some businesses already established within the overlay district that fall under the prohibited use category. He said the goal is not to eliminate or restrict those.

“We want those (business owners) to be successful and to continue with their businesses,” he said. “As we try to bring in these mixed-use buildings that have a combination of residential and professional spaces, you’re bringing people in to work, so we want to have the right type of attractions that also support them in the traditional downtown manner (by) giving them a place to go to lunch, to pick up provisions, and the opportunity to embrace and use local professional services.”

Wendt said the city has also extended its Community Reinvestment Area as part of the downtown redevelopment plan.

“This allows us to give property tax incentives to businesses that are redeveloping,” he said. “We heard from developers and builders that this is essential for this type of development in our market.”

The process of full redevelopment of the downtown area is long-term, Wendt said. The next step includes enlisting a firm to conduct a feasibility study to determine which type of businesses are likely to be successful based on demographic and location metrics.

City officials estimate residents can expect to see notable redevelopment results within the next five years.

“This really is something that we’ve heard from our residents (for years); that desire for a good downtown,” said city spokesman Rich Hopkins. “It’s not going to happen overnight, but we’re now taking the steps to make it happen. I think it’s going to be a big win for the city.”

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