PIQUA — City residents and local officials are continuing to reclaim the statement of “this is Piqua” as a positive affirmation and working to inspire other community members to do the same through the most recent Positively Promoting Piqua (PPP) event held Monday evening.
Over 100 people attended PPP’s presentation, “THIS. Is Piqua! — The Vision Moving Us Forward,” at the Fort Piqua Plaza. PPP Chairman Dan French introduced PPP and the activities they have supported for the betterment of Piqua before turning the reigns over to city leadership.
“We’re trying to make a difference in the lives in the people of Piqua,” French said.
Piqua City Manager Gary Huff then led a presentation on the importance of having a vision for the city, which also included recognizing the assets that Piqua already has and how it can be further enhanced.
Huff went over Money Magazine’s annual “Best Places to Live in America” list, detailing the attributes of some of those cities instead of their names. Those attributes included a chocolate factory, bike trails, vocational and educational opportunities, reasonable home prices, local shops, a good library, friendliness of residents, proximity to a large metropolitan area, and more.
“What city comes to mind when you think of this?” Huff asked, then responded, “Piqua. Piqua has in common all types of assets of the best places to live.”
Huff then discussed a 2013 branding project in which people in Tipp City, Troy, and Piqua were asked what they thought of their city. While the descriptions of Tipp City and Troy were mostly positive, Piqua residents referred to Piqua as “rundown,” “dilapidated,” “struggling,” “descending,” and “backward.” Probably the most striking description for Piqua was “the armpit of the county.”
“We either get some really good deodorant, or we reinvent ourselves,” Huff said, noting that people who did not live in Piqua spoke more highly of the city than residents did.
Huff went over the importance of changing the overall public image of Piqua as well as providing a vision to guide improvements to the city.
“You really need a community vision … to be able to get where you want to go,” Huff said.
Huff went over some of his previous experience in city government to show how vision has led to growth in other cities, including Leesburg, Va.; Blacksburg, Va.; and Fisher’s, Ind. He demonstrated the significant growth in population in each of those cities and how their visions led to improvements in city parks, retail opportunities, economic development, and more.
“It is so important to be able to have a vision to work off of,” Huff said, adding that the vision can also be used to inspire developers.
Assistant City Manager and Economic Development Director Justin Sommer discussed how vision has already impacted Piqua as well as where the vision is currently leading.
Sommer noted how the city has taken advantage of being a trail town, and the bike path, completing improvements behind the old Piqua Power Plant on South Main Street to beautify that portion of the path. He also used the example of how Buffalo Wings and Rings turned the site of an old grocery store into a “vibrant spot” in town.
The Riverfront District Development Strategy is continuing to provide vision for city growth with utilizing the downtown and access to the Great Miami River to create what Sommer called “activated space.” The old Mo’s building will likely be used as restaurant space after asbestos issues are cleaned up there. Sommer also said that city is applying to have the Zollinger Building on the National Register of Historic Places, which could give developers added tax credits and give the building a second life.
“This is what we want: activated, engaged spaces,” Sommer said.
The Historic East Piqua Plan is also providing vision of a Community Center Campus, which is seeing its first possible addition in the form of a senior housing development where the Roosevelt Field House is currently located. The field house was recently sold to the city and then to the non-profit Piqua Improvement Corporation for $280,000.
The goal is for the Piqua Improvement Corporation to work with St. Mary’s Development and the Miller Valentine Group to redevelop that site for a senior housing product as the kickoff to the city’s campus plan. The property would feature approximately 49 apartments for seniors with a community area on the first floor.
A representative of the Miller Valentine Group said that they are applying for federal funding to use for building the site. Once they are awarded funds, construction is expected to begin in 2018 and finish in the second quarter of 2019. Overall, the senior housing development is expected to be a $10 million investment in that area.
The city is also assuming the redevelopment of the Piqua Branch of the Miami County YMCA will take place at this site. They are also expecting one to two medical facilities to be a part of the campus plan.
“We are unique, and we have assets to sell. The reality is we’re a pretty fun place to be,” Sommer said, adding that there are people outside of the community who are looking to invest in Piqua because of those assets. “What we need to do is a better job of telling our story, which we work very hard at. It may start simple, but it really can evolve into something pretty fantastic.”
Sommer ended the presentation by showing a rendering of a possible vision for an open Lock 9 Park and improved riverfront with the words “the front” on photo.
“Gary (Huff) gave you a list of adjectives that were used to describe Piqua; one of them was ‘backwards.’ I don’t really think that’s who we are,” Sommer said. “I think we’re more like ‘the front.’ I think that’s who we will be.”
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org or (937) 451-3336