A steering committee meeting was held recently to discuss the downtown project. (Photo submitted)
A steering committee meeting was held recently to discuss the downtown project. (Photo submitted)

VAN WERT – The next phase of the Van Wert Forward initiative is the master planning process. The Van Wert County Foundation has contracted OHM Advisors from Columbus, Ohio, to guide the Downtown Van Wert Redevelopment Master Plan, which recently began with a steering committee meeting laying the groundwork for this months-long process.

OHM Advisors is a community advancement firm designing-award winning work across the architecture engineering and planning spheres. They believe that something incredible grows out of a team of experts with individual specialization - ideas with a more significant impact. Whether they are creating public spaces or regulations, plans, or community identities - they take a holistic approach to analysis, policy, and design to shape, preserve, and make places better for people. As community development experts who have worked extensively on behalf of public and private sector clients, they know that lasting solutions are never one-dimensional and must align with the community values and vision.

OHM Advisors has joined forces with Epic Small, a sole-proprietor consulting firm dedicated to helping communities harness the power of small-scale placemaking projects that build momentum and motivate change. People want to see and be a part of making improvements to where they live. With close to ten years of experience, Epic Small works with communities to ‘do more’ and ‘talk less.’ Epic Small believes in empowering regular people to make extraordinary improvements to their communities.

Small Nation joins the team to provide insight on community branding and wayfinding as well as the ability to craft comprehensive strategies for tenant recruitment, development, and retention that could add to the long-term viability of Downtown Van Wert.

The first and most critical step was creating a steering committee, getting them into the conversation, and helping map out what everyone would like to see from this plan. The first meeting was Friday, June 19, at The Wassenberg Art Center.

The steering committee has local leadership representation of economic development organizations, city and county government, and business entities. Steering committee members are: Stacy Adam, Seth Baker, Hall Block, Gary Clay, Jay Fleming, Cindy Hurless, Chuck Koch, Thad Lichtensteiger, Ken Markward, Bill Marshall, Amanda Miller, Mitch Price, Adam Ries, Chet Straley, Joanne Thatcher, Mark Verville, and Hope Wallace.

This meeting was an introduction of OHM Advisors, Epic Small, and Small Nation to the steering committee members, an overview of the planning process and what it hopes to accomplish, setting up future meeting dates and formats, and brainstorming ideas for the future of Downtown Van Wert.

Public meetings are set for August and October, depending on COVID-19 guidelines. Community meetings are to gather ideas on issues, opportunities, and priorities, then provide an overview of the planning process and critical findings, present the planning framework, and engage the public in a series of activities to gain feedback on the plan elements.

Van Wert Forward is vision-driven by The Van Wert County Foundation. Van Wert Forward’s mission is to redevelop the downtown area for future economic development and investment by creating new multi-use properties that attract people to our community. We are committed to a bright future for our community, and we collaborate enthusiastically to make this vision a reality. Together we bring experience and commitment to downtown revitalization. Visit vanwertforward.org for more information.