Should Meadville’s Diamond Park area be opened up to limited retail business? Or should it continue to be restricted to institutional uses, such as government buildings, law offices and similar uses currently in place?

Meadville Planning and Zoning Commission members will be wrestling with that question and others this month as they continue work on the city’s business district action plan update.

The update will spell out what actions should be taken to continue revitalizing the downtown area, including what types of businesses should be courted and what amenities, such as benches and plantings, should be placed downtown.

The last action plan, developed in the late 1990s, included Impact Meadville, the $14 million commercial, housing and parking project north of the Meadville Market House. It was completed in 2004.

In the course of developing the update, Diamond Park was listed as the second-favorite place downtown among workers and shoppers, according to Rick Grossman, the planning consultant assisting the city with the plan. “That area is very important,” he told the commission at a meeting this week.

In the city’s 1993 comprehensive plan, Diamond Park was designated an institutional district, which discourages commercial activity such as retail. The zone was amended since to allow housing at Parkside Commons, the $4 million redevelopment of the former Meadville Junior High School at the northeast corner of the Diamond.

Andy Walker, executive director of Meadville Redevelopment Authority, said once the National Guard Armory is vacated for a planned new facility in Cambridge Township, there could be four vacant buildings on the west side of the Diamond alone.

And, coupled with the fact that there have been recent inquires as to whether coffee shops are allowed on the Diamond, Grossman said the city should consider if regulations should be changed to allow a wider range of uses for the buildings there.

Grossman suggested the city consider allowing limited commercial development that would not detract from the historic nature of the Diamond. For example, the regulations could limit the signage, the types of businesses and mandate that either the historic buildings and their appearance be preserved, or that any changes mimic the existing architecture.

But he stopped short of endorsing that route. “It’s a choice the city itself has to make,” he said.

Grossman asked the commission members to consider the plan and suggestions and offer comments for their next meeting, which will be Oct. 5.



Gary Johnson can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at gjohnson@meadvilletribune.com



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