The City of Galion hosted a second meeting with Uptowne business owners on Aug. 15 to continue discussing revitalization efforts.
During the first meeting that was held in May, attendees discussed a variety of issues affecting the area, including the deterioration of the buildings, a trend of vacancies and a lack of marketing. Click here to read the story on the first meeting.
The focus of the second meeting was improving the current condition of the Uptowne and first steps for applying for grant funding again.
As far as improving and maintaining the district, Mayor Tom O’Leary again started the discussion about forming a Special Improvement District. If business owners decide they want a SID put in place, it would need to be approved by City Council.
Businesses within a certain area (does not have to only include the Uptowne District) would be assessed a small tax each year. The collected funds would be used for improvements to the SID, which could include planters, paint and cosmetic items, fixing uneven sidewalks, snow removal, etc. Members of the SID Board would have control as to how the money is spent.
O’Leary emphasized that he does not want city funds to be relied upon for funding, as was done in the past.
Law Director Thomas Palmer added that public funding should never be more than 30 percent of a revitalization program. Although SID’s are a new concept in Galion, many other cities already have them in place. Palmer pointed out that Lancaster funds its entire downtown program through a SID.
The city will be contacting business owners to determine if there is an interest.
Many people in attendance felt the area is under-utilized overall. Suggestions for increasing traffic included regularly showing movies at the Galion Community Theatre, offering sidewalk seating at restaurants (there is currently a city ordinance prohibiting it), wifi internet access and using Nollen Park for events.
There was also support for scheduling more community events in the Uptowne. This initiative began on Aug. 22 with the Cider Alley Craft Fair, an event in the alley beside The Cracked Pot with vendors, artists and live entertainment. The organizers hope to make this a monthly event.
Linda Chambers, formerly the manager of the Main Street Galion program, suggested that local banks get involved in helping with building vacancies. She noted that almost one full block is currently vacant.
Palmer then discussed how to access historic tax credits for projects. There are three available: Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credits at 10 and 20 percent funding, and the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit (25 percent).
Funding opportunities will especially open up if the Uptowne District is registered as a national historic site. The law director reported that representatives from the Ohio Historic Preservation Office were in town recently to review what specifically needs put into place. He volunteered to take the lead on this.
Referring to the previous meeting, City Auditor Brian Treisch asked what the business owners need to do to form a merchants’ organization. A private entity is required in order to receive state funds.
Attendees agreed that an organization similar to Main Street Galion needs to be energized in the near future.
“When we had it, it worked. It was pretty remarkable what we accomplished,” Kent Gimble said. He owns multiple buildings in the Uptowne.
“We need the community’s input for any of these grants and we need the property and business owners involved,” Chambers stated. “You have take the lead on this, and [the city] will help you.”
Three of the attendees volunteered to begin the process of forming an organization. Contact the City of Galion for more information at 419-468-1857.