Historic Downtown Delaware is booming, and the nation is taking notice. This week, the American Planning Association (APA) announced it has recognized downtown Delaware as one of four “Great Neighborhoods” on its 2019 “Great Places in America” list.
The “Great Places” list, which began in 2007 and is released annually, recognizes three categories: neighborhoods, streets, and public spaces. Downtown Delaware was one of 13 total places recognized in the 2019 list. Also included in the four “Great Neighborhoods” was Columbus’ Short North Arts District.
“We are thrilled that downtown Delaware is officially a national award-winning ‘Great Place in America,’” Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle said. “Planning is behind the places communities value most, and our downtown has been our city’s most defining element for more than 200 years. We are honored to be one of only four ‘Great Neighborhoods’ in the nation recognized, and among the American Planning Association’s best of the best.”
The APA represents city planners across multiple levels, including those holding appointed or elected positions in cities and students working toward their degrees in city planning.
“We are the educational organization that provides planners with up-to-date trains of educational opportunities at that cutting edge,” APA President Kurt Christiansen said. “We celebrate good planning throughout the United States and throughout the world.”
Of the selection process for a “Great Place,” Christiansen said they are “looking for something that showcases the importance of what planners do and how we, as a profession, can make an impact on the community.”
“I think a lot of people take the profession for granted, and this is a way for us to celebrate and to showcase the good work that planners do and the impact it has on a community,” he said.
Christiansen said the selection process begins with at least 200 nominations coming in from city planners, community members, and city organizations all over the country. From there, he said the pool is cut down to a “more manageable group that really stands out.”
A seven-panel jury then sits down and discusses 25-30 places for final consideration, a process in which Christiansen said the panel is tough in their discussions.
Asked what stood out about downtown Delaware in the final selection process, Christiansen said a theme developed with the final designees being places that have seen better days at one time but have experienced a revitalization.
“(Downtown Delaware), in particular, is fascinating,” Christiansen said. “That the community came together with the stakeholders and the business owners, and the city itself, and fought to keep that historic context of that downtown.”
“It has been amazing to see downtown Delaware grow in the past few years, not only because of the efforts of Main Street Delaware, but also through a partnership with the City of Delaware as well as our business owners and property owners,” Main Street Delaware Executive Director Susie Bibler said.
She added, “We are currently seeing the fruits of our labor over the past 20 years that Main Street Delaware has existed. We are so grateful for the people that came before us and the vision that was created 20 years ago.”
“Delaware has been committed to its downtown since founder Moses Byxbe laid out our city in 1808, making sure that Sandusky Street was wider than any nearby street,” Delaware Community Affairs Coordinator Lee Yoakum said. “The extra width helped to naturally establish the downtown central business district. Two centuries later, the vibrant downtown that Byxbe envisioned endures and thrives.
“This honor speaks highly of our planning and development efforts, but more broadly of the partnerships, building owners, business owners, elected officials, and policymakers who have worked toward the common goal of a vibrant downtown.”
The city will celebrate its “Great Neighborhoods” designation with the community at noon Thursday, Oct. 17, in the patio at 2 S. Sandusky St. A short program will be followed by a walking tour of downtown.