Sunday, Feb 18, 2018
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Sylvanians have their say in imagining city's future look

Bright blue giant-sized, bowl-shaped planters were a definite no. Ditto with the wild looking tower with swirls of purple, red, and yellow.

Residents and business owners who attended an Imagine Sylvania open house earlier this week made it clear what they liked and what they didn't like on display boards that showed an array of contemporary and traditional features that might be used to enhance the community's gateway corridor.

About 40 people came to the event at Northview High School Monday night; city officials had hoped to draw at least 50, but said the pending snow storm likely kept some people home.

Representatives of JJR, LLC, an Ann Arbor firm hired by the city to provide planning and landscape architectural services to develop streetscape design guidelines for the Monroe and Main street corridors, were on hand to talk to residents. The city is paying up to $58,000 to JJR for its services.

The purpose of the gateway project is to provide a detailed vision that guides civic investment in the gateway district; attracts new businesses, stores, and residents, and ensures Sylvania's vitality and appeal for current and future generations.

Focus areas include the central business district (the downtown); the civic campus (the area that includes the municipal building, Sylvania Municipal Court, and the Sylvania library), and the Monroe Street corridor.

Paul Fontaine, an urban designer with JJR, said motorists along U.S. 23 need to be invited, or hooked in some way, to get off the highway and come into the community.

Right now, he said, the city's "regional gateway" lacks signals to coax motorists to visit Sylvania. Landscaping, gardens, and a tower with "Sylvania" on it possibly could be used to attract attention to the community and draw people into the city, he said.

When motorists exit the highway and turn onto Monroe Street, they need to know how to find attractions, including the Main Street business district. When motorists exit the highway onto Monroe Street, Mr. Fontaine said, they will want to know how to get to the downtown and how far away it is - is it a few blocks or 10 miles?

The central business district doesn't have a great range of offerings, Mr. Fontaine said, and residents at the meeting apparently agreed. On comment notes, several residents suggested that the downtown should be home to a greater variety of shops, including a coffee shop.

One person's note suggested, "More freedom for exterior building expression. As long as it is well done. See Europe."

In addition to yellow sticky notes on which to make comments, residents were given red and green paper dots to indicate their preferences on samples of signage and entryway elements as well as other features.

Art Landseadel, the city's forester, favored a traditional wooden bench over a black metal bench. The metal gets too hot in the sun, he said. Other traditional features got the nod from Mr. Landseadel as well as several others, including Diana Leitner, a Sylvania business owner, who said that some of the samples were too modern and out of character for the city.

Ms. Leitner said that holding an open house was a great idea because it gave people a chance to get involved in the gateway project and say what they liked and didn't like.

"I hope it proves effective," she said.

Jeffrey Ballmer, Sylvania's director of public service, said that another public meeting will be held before JJR finalizes its report. The report could be ready for council's review in April or May, he said.

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