East Wooster Street Corridor

Report on East Wooster Street doesn’t pull any punches

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Bowling Green took a jab to the gut last week in the release of a study on the East Wooster Street entrance to the community. The “strategy for redevelopment,” conducted by Development Strategies of St. Louis, pulled no punches as it pointed out where the city has gone wrong, and where it needs to change course to avoid a downward spiral. The university and historic downtown are definite draws for the community, the study stated. But East Wooster Street – the front porch of the community – is littered with “haphazard development and poor quality buildings.” The study concluded that it’s not enough that the city has made minor changes to the zoning code, and that BGSU has purchased of some lots and demolished of some eyesores on East Wooster Street. To compete with other communities, especially other university towns, the city and BGSU need to take some control to promote healthy development along East Wooster. Mayor Dick Edwards discussed the “painful truth” of the study last week with City Council. “Bowling Green has a major image problem that needs to be fixed,” Edwards said of the report. “The condition of the city is placing the university at a competitive disadvantage in attracting students.” It’s not just student enrollment that is at risk, according to the study. Both BGSU and Wood County Hospital have reported difficulty attracting talent because the community appears to lack “quality of life” characteristics. The report has an “unmistakable sense of urgency,” Edwards said. “The simple truth is that we as a community cannot afford the economic losses associated with declining enrollments,” the mayor said. Following are some conclusions and recommendations from the study: First impressions really count Bowling Green is a far more impressive community than its first impression indicates. It has two major assets that many communities would be envious of: a public university and a charming, historic downtown. Even so, the main corridor that welcomes visitors to the city and connects these destinations gives a negative impression that is hard to overcome. The investments BGSU has made in the Stroh Center and Falcon Health Center set a new standard for quality; however, both public and private investment will be needed to infuse the 1.8-mile corridor with vitality. Behind in economic development trends The national economy is changing, but Bowling Green has not adapted its approach to economic development. The city’s efforts in regards to industrial/manufacturing jobs have proven fruitful, but this singular focus has come at the expense of knowledge-based industries that are growing and are expected to become increasingly important in the future. This blue-collar focus needs to be balanced with a broader vision of growth that will lead to greater prosperity in the long-term, and this is going to require a new strategic direction that is supported by all members of the community. People are searching for quality of life People are increasingly choosing where they want to live based on the quality of life. Therefore, the quality of place (amenities, public space, walkability, etc.) is becoming a critical component in attracting and retaining the next generation of people who will call a community home. At least two major institutions, BGSU and Wood County Hospital, have clearly stated that the quality of the city, and the state of Wooster Street in particular, are negatively affecting their ability to attract talent. Potential employees don’t see the amenities they desire and find it easier to go elsewhere. Top students and their parents come to the community and don’t see it as a fun, progressive place they…

BG gets ‘dose of reality’ – curb appeal lacking as families shop for college

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Shopping for universities has become a “buyer’s market,” and many prospective students and their families aren’t attracted to what Bowling Green is selling. Bowling Green has received this “dose of reality” in the latest study on city development. Without making some major changes in the community, the report projects Bowling Green State University will likely see a big drop in enrollment. The consultants have shared a painful truth, Mayor Dick Edwards said during Monday’s City Council meeting. “Bowling Green has a major image problem that needs to be fixed,” Edwards said of the report. “The condition of the city is placing the university at a competitive disadvantage in attracting students.” Edwards, however, objected to some of the bold statements in the report. “I sincerely believe that we have not been standing still as a community,” he said. “I nevertheless agree that timing is critical and we have no choice but to move forward with deliberate speed on a priority basis.” The “Strategy for Redevelopment” focuses on the East Wooster Corridor, and was researched by Development Strategies of St. Louis. Bowling Green State University contracted for the study that is looking at how to best develop the areas on the outer fringe of the university. The city and university have been working on the East Wooster roadway for the past few years, with roundabouts and a new bridge over Interstate 75 underway. But the report pointed out that the minor rezoning efforts by the city are not enough. The report has an “unmistakable sense of urgency,” Edwards said. Projections call for diminishing numbers of traditional age college students beginning in 2025. That will intensify the competitiveness in the marketplace. Also, students and parents are increasingly making decisions about colleges based on appearance of communities. Communities like Kent have made substantial improvements in the areas adjoining the campus, Edwards said. Bowling Green is in the beginning stages of those efforts. “The simple truth is that we as a community cannot afford the economic losses associated with declining enrollments,” the mayor said. BGSU President Rodney Rogers has been awaiting the report. “He clearly senses this urgency,” Edwards said. “The numbers are very, very telling.” The numbers, which show the potential decline in enrollment, are a “dose of reality” for the university and the city, the mayor said. The key to the city’s future along the East Wooster Corridor, according to Edwards, will be the ability to attract private investors to build in targeted areas along the corridor – such as the Thurstin-Manville intersection, the area near the Falcon Health Center, and the entry point into the city off I-75. The city needs to make way for that development, according to the consultants. The city must create a “regulatory framework for development,” to establish standards for setbacks, landscaping, signage, architectural quality – and then make sure to stick with those standards. “I agree with the consultants, the city must be proactive rather than reactive, and that means addressing as a matter of priority zoning issues, architectural standards and expanding the offerings of incentives,” Edwards said. BGSU and the city will be meeting soon to set priorities based on the report. “A shared vision between the city and the university on how best to move forward is paramount, and I have every reason to believe that the excellent working relationships between town and gown will continue unabated,” the mayor said. Though the report points out deficiencies in the city, Edwards remained optimistic that the city can accomplish the goals set. “I sincerely believe opportunities abound,” he said. City…

Four pedestrian crosswalks being added to East Wooster

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   BGSU students crossing East Wooster Street will have to worry less about dodging traffic – and motorists will have to be on their toes to not miss the four new crosswalks being added to the street. Four pedestrian crosswalks are being installed on East Wooster Street – one by the Stroh Center, and three between the traffic lights at Manville and South College avenues. A pedestrian safety study was conducted in the fall of 2015 around the Bowling Green State University campus, to identify locations that may need marked crosswalks. “They took all likely crossing points,” Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett said. “Our goal is to ensure everybody can cross the road.” The four crosswalks, costing a combined total of $489,191, are being paid for entirely by the Ohio Department of Transportation. Though there will be three crosswalks in a very short distance between the existing crosswalks at Manville and South College streets, Fawcett said the study did not foresee any resulting traffic congestion on East Wooster Street. “They incorporated the traffic counts in their studies,” he said. The construction going on now on East Wooster is the underground infrastructure needed, plus markings and signage. Plans call for the signals to be installed early next year. There are two different types of crosswalks being installed. Both types are new to Bowling Green. Two will be more traditional crosswalks with “refuge islands” in the middle of the street. The other two will be pedestrian hybrid beacons. The two pedestrian islands, which will have 6-inch high curbs, will be located in the middle of East Wooster Street – one near Founders residence hall (just east of Manville Avenue) and the other just west of the Falcon Health Center. They will be installed this year. The refuge islands in the middle will allow pedestrians to only worry about traffic from one direction at a time. “The goal for the island is to give a person an opportunity to maximize their safety,” Fawcett said. The two pedestrian hybrid beacons will be installed at the Stroh Center and across from McFall Center (just east of Troup Street.) The beacons, which remain passive unless a pedestrian wishes to cross, are activated by a push button. Once pushed, the yellow lights start flashing, followed by red lights to stop traffic. The lights remain red for the amount of time expected for pedestrians to cross the street. Once the lights are no longer red, traffic may resume. The pedestrian hybrid beacons will be completed in early 2018. Motorists who drive through the crossings while the red lights are shining can be cited for violating a traffic control device, similar to a stoplight violation. “It’s a very good example of a collaborative effort between BGSU, the city and ODOT, working on a common goal,” Fawcett said. “We’re pretty fortunate that ODOT is picking up the cost of these.”