The boulevard would begin in the area of Sweeney’s Seafood Bar & Grill and The Aficionado, he said. It would make West Franklin two lanes with on-street parking west of those two businesses for about two blocks, said Patrick Beckel, owner of The Aficionado.
Beckel, who applied to the city for the entertainment district, said the boulevard will not alleviate current traffic congestion. But he said it will help businesses in the area and calm traffic.
“It allows us to put in a lighted crosswalks,” Beckel said. “It’s the only way we can make that downtown walkable, having safe places for people to cross the street.
“When you have a boulevard with trees in the middle, people don’t race up and down that street, which again makes it safer to cross,” he added.
It’s too early to tell if those switches will impact costs and the Centerville’s Uptown construction budget hasn’t changed yet, a city official said.
The next step is to take the changes and “do an analysis of what that looks like from an investment perspective” so the city can “begin creating functional phases of construction that allow you to realize that while not negatively impacting either the existing traffic or the existing businesses that are there,” Norton-Smith said.
The Uptown plan is a multi-year phased project to improve access, parking, business growth, greenspace and entertainment in the center of town.
Its first phase had targeted the northeast quadrant of the Main and Franklin intersection, a crossroads of two state routes that’s among the busiest along Ohio 48 south of Interstate 675 in Montgomery County.
Construction priorities for Phase I are being re-evaluated, Norton-Smith said.
“We discovered that shutting down an entire quadrant of parking was just not going to be feasible because it would negatively impact the businesses,” he added. “We are instead looking at how do we phase construction…throughout the district to allow us to construct these improvements in a way that will not will not” hurt the businesses.
Despite the changes, Norton-Smith said, “we’re making good progress and we expect to do so and be under construction in 2022” as scheduled.
Uptown restaurant activity has been notable in recent weeks. In August, the Ohio Department of Commerce approved the entertainment district, giving an area with about 100 businesses 15 more liquor permits.
The designation is “an economic development incentive for restaurant owners to locate here,” Serr said.
Also in August, Margot Blondet, the co-owner and executive chef of the upscale Oregon District Salar Restaurant and Lounge submitted plans for a new dining establishment on West Franklin.
“We’re all very pleased and excited about” Salar’s plans, Centerville Mayor Brooks Compton said.
Meanwhile, Panera Bread closed its North Main business just days before opening a Washington Twp. site on Lyons Road.
A few days before the Panera move, the former Las Piramides restaurant site at 101 W. Franklin St. near Uptown’s western edge was sold. It was bought by a Centerville business planning to open The Brunch Pub, state records show.
A national chain like Panera “didn’t necessarily fit with what we were trying to create,” Norton-Smith said.
Seeking the right fit
A better fit, he said, would be “a regional chain or something that would be a local draw similar to a Salar — that has some recognition to their name and a quality product that we think will help to bring people into the Uptown district.”
The Uptown plan, Serr said, “depends upon private owners of properties and potential purchasers of properties making investments and it depends on a lot of private capital.”
Some businesses investing in the area have been awarded money through Centerville’s Uptown Upgrades. It’s a grant program that can provide up to 50% in matching funds for a maximum of $15,000 to eligible businesses, according to the city’s website.
Two dentists — Michael Krumnauer and Angy Mounir-Toufils — and Visiting Angels have been awarded funds, Norton-Smith said.
Meanwhile, Centerville has had “a number of inquiries” from businesses seeking existing Uptown space and some interested new construction, he added.
“I would say that (none) of them have pulled the trigger on those movements yet,” Norton-Smith said. “But we have definitely seen an uptick in inquiries about what is available.”