The transformation of Delaware’s riverfront remains a key initiative for the city as it aims to showcase a long-underappreciated asset in the community. During Monday’s meeting of the Delaware City Council, planning, landscape, and architectural design firm MKSK Studios delivered a presentation on its vision to help bring the city’s goals to life.
MKSK representatives began the presentation by giving an overview of two specific plans — the Downtown Riverfront Master Plan and the Olentangy River Trails Plan — and the purposes for both plans. Those purposes include improving mobility and access, connecting neighborhoods, unlocking riverfront potential, placemaking, and improving river health and quality of life.
“What we’re really passionate about is getting you all out to the Olentangy River and the great resources you have in town, and adding even more vibrancy to what is already a great city,” MKSK principal Jeffrey Pongonis told the council.
MKSK associate Michael Mears detailed the Olentangy Multi-use Trail Feasibility Study, which is centered around the stretch of riverfront from U.S. Route 23 and Stratford and Pollock roads all the way north to Olentangy Avenue.
“Really, what we’re trying to do here is just look at existing conditions,” Mears said of the study. “Along those two corridors, there’s really not a lot of river access, not a lot of river views, and in some situations, really no sidewalks. So, we’re really looking at what’s the best routing option to try to connect those growing southern neighborhoods to downtown Delaware but also to the Olentangy River at the same time.”
The study considers several options for connectivity along the river, including trails and greenways, roadside trails and sidepaths, on-road routes and shoulders, and sidewalks. “It’s not only making those north and south connections but also thinking about those internal neighborhood connections for the existing residents who may live along those roads, but then the growth and development that’s happening off of Pollock Road and those new residential developments,” Mears said.
In a potential first phase, the study focused on utilizing Stratford Road and the existing trails to strengthen the connection north. Mears said one of the “unique options” for the plan would be to use the existing bridge that crosses the river from Pollock Road to near the car dealership property at the US 23/state Route 315 intersection.
According to Mears, “It’s sort of a utility structure that we think provides an opportunity to really kind of create a gateway for both Delaware and the trail and create an opportunity to connect people back to the Olentangy River in an area where it’s sort of hard to see; you can be on those roads and don’t know it’s there.”
Building off that potential connection, Mears went on to say the next steps might include linkage of existing park space along the water and expanding it down to the water to give people access to the water. Future pedestrian bridge crossings are also being considered.
As for the Downtown Riverfront Master Plan, Mears said that much of the vision and goals for the plan are driven by the feedback received from community engagement efforts. The feedback-driven plan includes potential active spaces, river access, multi-modal pathways, retail and entertainment opportunities, and added comfort and amenities to improve the user experience.
The “big moves” of the master plan, as Mears referred to them, include new riverfront edges and trails to neighborhood amenities, a new riverfront park and plaza on the east bank of the river, Mingo Park improvements to create riverfront access, a pedestrian bridge connection to Mingo Park from the east bank, Winter Street mobility, street scope, and bridge improvements, and new riverfront district development and entertainment options.
As part of the Winter Street bridge improvements, the MKSK representatives presented several options to the council to improve pedestrian connectivity along the bridge and, ultimately, to any riverfront improvements. The idea of temporarily closing the bridge for festivals and events was floated, as were the possibilities of adding a multi-use path on the bridge while still maintaining two-way traffic or permanently reducing the bridge to one-way traffic to allow for more pedestrian space.
Following the presentation, council members weighed in with their thoughts on the future of the city’s riverfront. Councilwoman Catlin Frazier said she hopes to see the riverfront initiatives take full advantage of the opportunities the river presents.
“In my opinion, it becomes more than just bike trails,” Frazier said. “It becomes businesses, restaurants, and a thriving community of nightlife. I think of things like San Antonio and its riverwalk and having dinner and a stroll. When I think about what is bringing economic prosperity, it is bringing in more business to the community and utilizing the riverwalk. So while trails sound great to start, I would love to see it expand well beyond that. Bridge Park (in Dublin) is a great example of utilizing that riverfront space, and I think that’s what Delaware could move towards.”
To hear the full presentation and comments from the council, the meeting can be viewed by accessing the agenda and motion summaries page under the government tab at www.delawareohio.net.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.