Fifty North Canton residents came together at 's Barrette Center Tuesday night to hear from and share ideas with 's Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative team (CUDC). The CUDC team explained had a goal of data collection, while the current meeting was more about sharing ideas. They spent the past month meeting with the master plan steering committee, doing research (they attended the ) and some additional field work.
The meeting, which lasted just over two hours, focused on streamlining seven goals and guiding principles that were determined as a result of the first public meeting and their additional research. These principles are available to view as part of the meeting slideshow on the master plan website. The first principle to "maximize the economic impact and community benefits of development opportunities" was echoed throughout the meeting. The basic premise seeming to be that one is not nearly as valuable without the other.
After viewing the initial set of slides, the crowd broke into three groups, each of which had a more specific focus.
1. Downtown North Canton and Community Identity
2. Key Development Sites
3. Corridors and Connections
I chose group No. 1, as my personal interest lies most in the downtown area, being that not only is , but my home is as well. This breakout session was full of good ideas and plentiful discussion from attendees (so much so that we didn't have time to get fully through the presentation). The first discussion was centered around creating an identity for the city. Several ideas were presented including "your true north" and "the biggest small town in Ohio," but community members questioned why a tagline like these is needed at all and why we can't simply be "North Canton." Further discussion was based very much around more walkable destinations in the North Canton Square, more trees, parking concerns, increased synergy between and the downtown area, and additional events and festivals near the square.
The CUDC presentation included some exciting ideas for each of these. Highlights for me were a gourmet grocery store downtown (Trader Joe's was mentioned multiple times), more prominence for , a water playground in , and reducing the speed limit on Main Street near downtown to increase safety for pedestrians and bicyclers. While each of these ideas presents its own set of challenges, I can certainly see the benefit of each both economically and in positive community impact.
I liked that the CUDC worked to identify these layering effects in all areas of their planning. They even presented some ideas for attempting to celebrate our city's problems with water and flooding, including managing storm water in a way that can be used as an educational tool for our schools.
The meeting ended with chamber president, Doug Lane, thanking attendees and sharing that the chamber is committed to keeping the completed master plan at the forefront of future planning for the city. The city's economic development director, Eric Bowles, echoed this sentiment in stating that the city is committed to putting this plan to use when it's complete. He said there are plentiful grant opportunities to bring these ideas to fruition, but that those grant applications require that we have a solid plan, so this is the very important first step in the process.
After each of the two master plan meetings I've left feeling invigorated and truly excited about the potential in our community. I encourage everyone to attend the final meeting, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 16 at the Barrette Center. Again, the slides from last night are available at www.ncantonmasterplan.org and anyone who wishes to share their own thoughts with the CUDC can do so by emailing email@example.com.