Over the next year or so, the City will be working on several projects that will start laying the ground work for our city’s path over the next decade. Among the projects being considered are:
A complete re-write of our zoning code. A draft will be coming in the next few months for many of the components of the new zoning code. We need and want public feedback as to how you want your city to look over the next 10-20 years. In order to keep the public up to date on the process and allow for input on the project, the consulting firm has designed a project website at http://www.MiddletownByDesign.com where you can find more information about the project including document downloads and upcoming meeting dates. In addition to the project website, there is also a project Facebook page (Middletown By Design) where there will be ongoing discussions and questions regarding the project, updates on the process, and general information on how you, the public, participate in this process. Any feedback gathered from the website or Facebook page will be used by the city staff, consultants, and the city’s elected and appointed officials in order to update the regulations that will help shape Middletown’s future.
Community Visioning Process. Middletown Moving Forward, the city’s community improvement corporation, is teaming up with the Community-Building Institute and other community groups to gather residents’ input so that a vision and action plan can be developed to improve the city.
Topics to be addressed include arts and culture; diversity and inclusion; economy and jobs; education; environment, beautification and recreation; health, wellness and safety; housing and neighborhoods; and infrastructure and transportation. The year-long process is designed to engage with the community to get meaningful feedback so a vision can be developed along with action steps. Please take the time to find out more and to participate in this process. To view more on the process, see: http://www.journal-news.com/news/news/community-visioning-process-kicks-off/nm6Pj/.
Downtown Planning – Downtown Middletown Inc., is working on updating plans for downtown including business recruitment and retention, the look and feel of downtown including outdoor seating, the entertainment district, the designated outdoor refreshment area and downtown amenities such as street light poles, benches, trash cans, etc.. What do we want our downtown to be?
This will be one area where some people will say “quit spending so much time and money on downtown and do more for the rest of the city.” My response is “why don’t we do it all? We can continue to evolve downtown while adding back everything that is missing from the other areas of town.” We came through an era during the recession where there were almost no resources to distribute. As we get stronger, let’s continue to improve everything, including downtown, to make Middletown the best city to live in for our residents and to work in for our businesses. Our best Middletown is one city working to improve in all areas simultaneously.
Retail Business – As we work in Economic Development on the process of building jobs and workforce development for improving city revenues over time, one of the areas that hasn’t received as much attention has been recruitment of retail business. While manufacturing, medical arts and other higher education/higher technology jobs may produce more income tax, our citizens need and want places to shop in Middletown. Right now, we all have to leave Middletown to get many of the consumer goods we want. Retail site selection often follows a different path from other business models. Retailers have a strong understanding of their core customers and they look for areas that have very specific characteristics and demographics when selecting new store locations. We are talking to several firms that provide data to retailers to help them make those future new location decisions. Those firms also work with municipalities to match regional and national retailers with cities that have the retailer’s exact desired demographics. As we explore that process, we will likely partner with this type of firm moving forward to start bringing retail back to Middletown.
City Connectivity. As part of our assessment of the 2005-2010 City Master Plan, improving connectivity throughout the city was discussed as an unmet need. Recommendations for future focus on City connectivity included concepts such as:
• Planning for citywide multi-modal connections that cater to bike, public transit, cars, and walking to ensure that it is easy, fun, and convenient for people to get to Middletown’s destinations (downtown, riverfront, parks, schools, shopping, and jobs).
• Designing citywide wayfinding signage that is designed for pedestrians, bicyclists, and automobiles.
• Maintaining public transportation options and review options to expand transit within Middletown.
• Reviewing other transportation initiatives such as bike sharing programs, shuttles, park and rides, etc… to determine if any such initiative is needed and would be supported in Middletown.
As we move into 2016, the City would like to explore this further and hopes to develop a more resident friendly plan to move people throughout the City.
Housing. Over 70% of our housing was built before 1970, and much of that older housing stock is two bedroom and it lacks amenities desired by today’s households. With a large housing stock that is less attractive in the regional housing market, the residents of our city need to give thought to how we either change the mix of housing in the City to be attractive to new residents or how we turn the existing housing stock into an advantage and not a detriment in recruiting new families to the area. I hope to have discussions in 2016 with area realtors, area builders, area businesses and the public on how they believe we can best position our housing stock to improve property values and recruit new families to Middletown to live.
Assuming we can make progress on these areas next year, we would be in a good place to start thinking about what a new City Master Plan might look like in 2017. Your input into what you want to see in the City you’ve chosen as home will be critical in helping to design a city you want to live in for the future.