It seems no one’s afraid to admit it: North Canton could definitely be improved.
From its sidewalks, signage, parking (or lack thereof), its overall identity and the businesses located downtown, there’s an endless amount of ways to make the city better.
And residents and community stakeholders were tasked with just that: Put your heads together and come up with some solid, plausible ways to improve. Those improvements would be wrapped up in one cohesive plan — the North Canton Master Plan.
The community held its third and final master plan meeting Wednesday night at ’s Barrette Business & Community Center. I attended as a quiet observer and listened as experts from the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative (CUDC) walked everyone through their mock-ups, which they've shaped through the views and opinions of those who've attended the North Canton master plan meetings.
I considered what was the best way to keep North Canton Patch viewers interested and engaged in the master plan process and how to tell the story of its progress from day one. And, to be honest, it’s tough. I reported in July about the city (their likes and dislikes), and when I couldn’t make it to the second meeting Sept. 20, at the , stepped in and .
So when looking at a way to keep our viewers informed, I thought I would share my experiences as a community newcomer, as a 20-something consumer and, as I had mentioned, a quiet observer of the city’s master plan meetings.
And so here we go.
When people ask me what I think of the meetings (and they do do that), I say it’s an exciting opportunity to shape North Canton’s future. It’s in the citizens’ hands, essentially. And it’s thrilling to see the progress from the first meeting in which everyone shared information about the city, to the final meeting in which we saw photo after photo of what our city could look like if we keep with this.
Wednesday night, the CUDC folks showed us photos of places like the sidewalk on East Maple Street, across from Walsh University, and what that would look like if we turned it into a walking and biking path with trees lining the street.
They showed a beautiful rendition of the with actual parking spots along the street. Can you imagine? Parking on the street?
There’s a little phrase used when talking about the kind of businesses we have along Main Street in North Canton, urban designer David Jurca told us. It’s called “back-door businesses.” It means the foot traffic typically happens behind the building, where people park. It leaves the front of the building inactive and sorely lacking in vibrancy.
It’s totally true, too. I don’t often walk through downtown. And I don’t think I’ve ever walked through the front door of the Chamber of Commerce or the Main Street Grille. Not once.
That’s something residents have put some thought into regarding the master plan — getting more activity in the downtown area. We want to see people walking their dogs, jogging, entering a store through the front door.
Jurca’s reasoning with the on-street parking: Make it easy for people to park and maybe you’ll start seeing a little more foot traffic on the sidewalks.
Since day one, signage has also been an issue. It seems people want North Canton to call out to you as you enter: “This is different than the place you just left. This is North Canton.” Jurca talked about creating big stone markers that would sit along the street at major intersections like Main/Orion and Maple/Market (gateways to the city).
Then — and this has me pretty excited — talk continued about a gourmet grocery store like Nature’s Bin, which carries organic, local and specialty items. (, if you’re curious what it’s like.) So that’s still a possibility along Main Street.
And, get this: An amphitheatre across from the (in Bitzer Park) could be a reality one day. The gathering spot could be used for lunch breaks at the YMCA or Hoover District and for live performances on the weekends or whenever, really.
Speaking of the Hoover District, Jurca also talked about making the Hoover building more friendly and accessible by opening up the first floor to people and adding benches, chairs and other welcoming aspects that invite you to sit and be comfortable.
CUDC designers also explained possible plans for the development of the , the need to fix drainage and flooding problems in the city, ways to encourage cycling and slow traffic through downtown and a long-term goal of moving (because we all know getting in and out of there is a nightmare).
Jurca said they’ll start drafting a plan to send to the steering committee, then come revisions and finally, the final master plan report, which he said will be made public by Jan. 1, 2012.
As I said before, there’s no way I could include everything that’s been talked about. But hopefully you folks can help me out.
Tell me what it is you think is most important when it comes to improving the city. Is it as small as flowers, banners and signage, or as large as parking garages and site development?