Bowling Green downtown

Panera planning move from downtown to Big Boy site

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Big Boy is moving over for bread, bagels, salads and soups. Panera Bread is planning to move from downtown Bowling Green onto the former site of Big Boy on East Wooster Street. Applications have been filed with the city engineer’s office for demolition of the Big Boy restaurant, and with the city planning office for a drive-thru at the new site. A building permit request for a new Panera restaurant was approved earlier this month by the Wood County Building Inspection Office. The new building will have 4,413 square feet of space. For 17 years, Panera has been serving downtown diners in Bowling Green. The move to East Wooster Street will give the restaurant better access to I-75 travelers, students on the BGSU campus, and ample parking. The move will leave a big hole in the downtown, but Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mary Hinkelman was looking at the bright side. “I don’t think it will stay empty long,” she said of the possibilities to fill the South Main storefront. Floyd Craft, owner of the building housing Panera, said he had heard some rumblings about the restaurant moving. Over the years, the business has expressed its desire to have a drive-thru for customers. “I haven’t heard anything official from them,” he said. And he suspects that the move won’t be very soon since a new restaurant will have to be constructed, and Panera renewed its lease two and a half years ago for the current site until 2021. Craft agreed that filling the spot shouldn’t be difficult. “Sooner or later, we’ll find someone,” he said. “I would like to get another good restaurant here.” Craft said he isn’t as worried about the impact of the move on himself – but more so on the overall health of the downtown. “I’m more concerned about them leaving for the traffic they pull downtown,” he said, noting the number of customers who eat at Panera then do some shopping at other downtown stores. “That’s my biggest concern.” The current Panera site at 139 S. Main St. is 5,000 square feet. “They’ve been a good tenant. I’m sorry to see them leave,” Craft said. The manager Tuesday morning at Panera downtown said she couldn’t answer questions about the move. The corporate office did not return a phone call or email request. Meanwhile, after more than 40…


Downtown parking committee needs more time

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The committee examining downtown parking needs more time on the meter. Bowling Green Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter told City Council Monday evening that the parking committee would like more time to study the issue of how parking gets paid for downtown. The committee originally had till the end of October, but asked for an extension till the Nov. 5 council meeting. The request was granted. “We’re very thankful of the participation of business owners and property owners,” Council President Mike Aspacher said. The parking committee includes the following downtown property and business owners: Dick Newlove; Greg Halamay, owner of Finders Records; Kim Thomas, owner of the H&R Block Building; Kati Thompson, owner of Eden Fashion Boutique; Ben Waddington, owner of Waddington Jewelers; Floyd Craft, owner of Ben’s and Ace Hardware; and Garrett Jones, owner of Reverend’s. Also attending the parking meetings, representing the city, are Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter, Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett, Director of Finance Brian Bushong, Police Chief Tony Hetrick and City Councilman Bruce Jeffers. The committee is charged with looking at whether the city should continue to charge for parking, or if the property and business owners want to work on a shared cost approach, Fawcett said. “They are examining all options,” Fawcett said. The committee was initially given two months to come up with a solution for maintaining downtown parking. The cost of parking meters will double in the downtown area if a solution isn’t found. Two proposals being considered are: Doubling meter costs to 50 cents an hour to pay for parking lot maintenance. Pulling out all parking meters and kiosks, and assessing downtown property and business owners for parking costs. The problem is that the city isn’t making enough from its downtown parking meters to pay for repaving the lots and enforcing parking rules. But the fear is that doubling parking costs will discourage customers from patronizing downtown businesses. The city’s downtown lots – with their 600-plus parking spaces – are struggling due to flat revenue, increasing costs and aging infrastructure. So the options suggested in August included increasing the parking revenue, sharing the costs of maintaining the parking lots, or getting rid of some of the expenses. Under a shared cost program, the downtown property owners would be assessed based on their front footage and the benefits to their parcels. The average property owner…


Think driving downtown will be clear after gas line work? Think again

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green motorists and businesses counting the days till the Columbia Gas work is done downtown should brace themselves for a rude awakening. The gas line replacement work that has shut down lanes and parking in the downtown much of this summer is just the first round of work along Main Street. “You ain’t seen nothing yet,” said Bowling Green Public Works Director Brian Craft. It’s not the city’s intention to make driving and parking difficult in the downtown area – officials are just trying to get necessary work done in a timely fashion. The good news is the downtown streetscape should be good for years once all the work is done. The bad news is the downtown is going to be torn up for another year or so to finish the job. “It’s just a circle of time,” Craft said. And the gas lines, water lines and roadwork all reached the end of their lifespans at the same time. The Columbia Gas work is scheduled to be done in October. But then water and sewer line work is scheduled throughout the winter, followed by repaving and rebricking Main Street next spring and summer. It could be worse, according to Craft. Initially Columbia Gas was planning to do its downtown work in 2019 – which could have meant that Bowling Green would have to repave the downtown streetscape again soon after completing the work. “It isn’t a perfect situation,” Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett said a couple weeks ago. “But we don’t have a choice in the matter.” All the work is necessary – and will result in a safer and better city for residents once it’s all complete, he said. Raquel Colon, external affairs specialist for Columbia Gas of Ohio, said the downtown project which started in June will not be completed until sometime in October. “We have brought some additional crews in to keep the progress moving,” Colon said. The gas line replacement project has taken so long because there are so many individual taps to replace in the downtown area. Unfortunately, the waterline work will be just as time-consuming, Craft said. The old lines are being replaced with new 12-inch lines. And those lines will be buried much deeper, he said. “Ours is going to be cumbersome,” Craft said of the waterline project. “Hopefully it’s a mild winter.” In the…