Local leaders have shelved plans to turn a block of Mulberry Street into a pedestrian walking plaza or open-container entertainment district in favor of a broader plan for the central business district.
Rather than focus on the block of Mulberry running east off Broadway, the city’s central corridor, Lebanon City Council directed staff to develop a request for proposals from urban planners and economic development specialists to tie together the corridor running north to the Warren County Fairgrounds.
Within this area, a mixture of restaurants, office, residential and retail users already coexist.
“People use that space differently,” Lebanon City Manager Pat Clements said during a council work session last week. “The only way to do that is to do a comprehensive plan.”
LCNB is building a $6 million administrative center about two blocks north on Broadway.
Another two blocks north, the city is marketing the former city garage site, about 6.5 acres just south of the Warren County Fairgrounds cleared for redevelopment with state racetrack redevelopment money.
And Warren County plans to redevelop part of the fairgrounds with $1.5 million in state racetrack redevelopment money and $3 million pledged by the operators of the Miami Valley Gaming racino to offset loss of the racetrack to the new gambling complex outside of town.
The focus shifted last year from this corridor to Mulberry Street after two more businesses along the block east of Broadway asked for “bump-outs” — extended curbs enclosed with wrought iron fencing.
Leaders of Historic Downtown Lebanon joined the growing excitement built behind the idea, enlarging on their proposal for bump-outs in front of the Elks club and the Royce Cafe & Coffeehouse. The Village Cellars had successfully pioneered the concept just east on Mulberry.
But the idea encountered opposition and there was a lack of existing businesses with liquor licenses to qualify the area as an open-container district under new state law.
Last week, leaders of the downtown advocacy group, in the process of renaming itself Main Street Lebanon, said the group was “not entirely content” to put the Mulberry Street idea on a shelf.
Greg Orosz, a landscape planner and president of the downtown group, said he agreed Mulberry Street needed to remain open to traffic, but still saw merit in the entertainment district concept.
Orosz said the group would want to move forward with bump-outs for Royce and the Elks. Doc’s Place is also expected to extend the curb in front of that bar-restaurant just west of Broadway on Mulberry.
“If we can make it happen, we’d like to have it ready by late spring/early summer,” said owner Mike Jacobs in an email.
This week, Clements said staff was developing a request for bids to update the city’s 15-year-old downtown master plan, with special emphasis on the stretch running up Broadway to the fairgrounds.
“It was a good plan,” Clements said. “A lot of things have changed.”
The job is expected to pay $50,000 to $75,000 and employ urban planners and economic development specialists.
The city hasn’t abandoned the pedestrian plaza concept, still envisioned as having longer-term potential.
“It’s going to take a long time,” Councilwoman Wendy Monroe said.
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