Downtown plan calls for innovative efforts

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A proposed plan for downtown development in the city of Linton calls for wide-ranging and innovative efforts to rebuild downtown ranging from offers of free rent for a year for qualifying merchants to created databases.

The development plan's entirely underwritten by Jeff Doris, and participation by downtown merchants would be voluntary. Doris owns Linton Family Pharmacy.

The proposal's draft will soon be available on www.lintonredevelopment.com, a website which is presently a placeholder.

While the city council only recently received the proposed plan, it could vote to support and adopt it in coming months.

That'd potentially expand the efforts of the downtown developer praised by city officials for the extensive refit work he's begun on downtown's northernmost block.

Doris owns most of the northwest side of the block bordered by Main Street and State Road 54, as well as several buildings on the northeast side including the former Cine Theatre. His LLC also owns the former City Hall, police station and jail.

Doris is planning major refits of the properties over time, though the plan's long-term and no certain timeframe's in place.

However, by developing the plan and seeking formal approval from the Linton City Council, Doris opens the plan up to the remaining downtown merchants and area residents for comment.

Termed "C to Shining C," the plan incorporates all of downtown commerce and all the city's historic district, though that rectangular region was done for simplicity's sake, plan designer Stan Palma said. Thus, it could be modified.

The proposed plan lists seven priorities:

* Economic development and job creation.

* Land use and utility use with improvements.

* Historic preservation and reuse.

* Housing options.

* Social services, including support for families.

* Recreational development and neighborhood beautification.

* Neighborhood safety and crime control.

Palma's designed similar suggested scenarios for other cities and towns which are nearly the same size as Linton.

In the long term, Mayor Patti Jones said the downtown plan could also be used to establish a tax-increment financing (TIF) district which could capture a portion of property taxes to be used for infrastructure and utility improvements.

Recommendations of the plan includes the formation of a Downtown Merchant's Association, which would meet regularly with the Greene County Economic Development Corp. and potentially use presently vacant office space.

The association would target and develop funding for downtown restoration, seeking state and federal grants and organizing a list of potential money sources. It would work closely with the GCEDC and the Linton-Stockton Chamber of Commerce.

The plan also calls for development of an urban homesteading business, where new businesses may have a year's free rent offered to them should they locate downtown.

That offer, however, would come with conditions. Specifically, new businesses would have to belong to the Downtown Merchant's Association and, whenever possible, buy all supplies locally from other shops in the district.

As a corollary to that idea, businesses which fit specific niches such as printing, signage, photography, crafts and other support businesses designed to work with downtown development.

The creation of special events such as sidewalk sales, display windows, and family-themed events centered around Christmas and Halloween, as well as other holidays.

Tying in promotions with special events such as the Linton Music Fest which would direct traffic downtown is also a focus.

Use of the city's comprehensive land plan, coupled with a parking inventory and a file on every unused building downtown, which could be accessed through the Greene County Recorder's offices, could also be on tap.

A quarterly review of troubled buildings such as the 15 N. Main St., presently the subject of city efforts, would also be kept.

Further, the plan would suggest a utility map documenting needed improvements and infrastructure needs such as lighting and parking, as well as recent improvements.

The plan was developed over the past two years, and targets North C Street to South C Street, bordered by East 3rd Street on the east and West 2nd Street to the west.

Regarding historic preservation, the National Register District Survey (NRDS) has already identified historic structures downtown. However, the proposed plan would rank the downtown buildings in regard to their importance to revitalization and redevelopment.

Among the considerations for ranking would be the structure's size, historic importance, current conditions and present use.

It would then slate which buildings should be saved, which buildings must be saved, and which should be demolished.

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