Livability Solutions

Reconnecting a Historic Town Center: Twinsburg, OH

March 2013

   Host: 

City of Twinsburg

Source: 

Challenge

Twinsburg is a small city situated between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio. Since losing its largest employer in 2009 -- a Chrysler stamping plant -- the city has focused recovery efforts on its diverse economic base and on the potential to redevelop its historic center. Two main roads intersect at the historic center, offering an opportunity for development but at the (potential) risk of undermining the location's historic character and human-scale features. In order to continue attracting quality jobs and to add value to its community long into the future, the City has embraced principles of sustainability, livability and connectedness. In conjunction with its comprehensive plan update, the City hoped work with stakeholders to develop a vision for future development in its center that aligns with those principles and also to identify specific design strategies to help achieve that vision.

The City of Twinsburg, in collaboration with Project for Public Spaces and Livability Solutions' designated technical assistance provider (Congress for the New Urbanism), developed the following objectives for the technical assistance:

  1. Hosting a Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares training focused on engineers and urban designers.
  2. Redesigning Twinsburg's road network to allow more pedestrian-friendly development.
  3. Identifying all businesses and destinations within a 10-minute walk of the historic center and plan for better walking and biking connections.

Process

Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) staff and experts worked with Larry Finch, Planning Director for the City of Twinsburg, for six weeks leading up to workshop to identify key issues facing the City, to outline objectives for the workshop and to assemble background materials. Prior to the workshop, CNU visited the historic center of Twinsburg with City staff.

A workshop was convened to brief local stakeholders on the design elements of walkable thoroughfares. Topics discussed included: identifying the city's historic and natural environment attributes; best practices on walkable retail (building setbacks, heights and facade features); and parking management. Following the briefing workshop participants formed small groups to identify strategies for applying Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares. Suggestions made by the small groups included: removing right turn lanes at key intersections in the town center, establishing streetscape elements and considering a form-based code or overlay design guidelines requiring pedestrian-oriented design.

Outcomes

After the workshop the City continued refining the town center plan and incorporated the vision into its latest comprehensive plan.

A Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) was formed to serve as an agent for change. The CIC works with the development community and area property owners to provide the incentives and financial mechanisms to stimulate responsible, goal-oriented redevelopment.

The CIC has purchased a 2-acre tract in the town center bringing the CIC and City's holdings to over half the 14 acres in the town center.

The City has applied to the US EPA Brownfield Cleanup Program for grant assistance related to asbestos mitigation at the "Old School."

The City commissioned an analysis of the roadway network as proposed in the comprehensive plan. The analysis was completed by GPD Group in early 2016.

The City received a grant from the "Connecting Communities" program funded by AMATS (the MPO). The grant provides assistance in the planning of alternative transportation connections between the City's existing trail and bicycle network to the central area and its points of interest.  This study will begin in January 2017 and be completed before the end of the year.