Embracing Piqua’s assets

“City needs more than booze and canoes.”

There already is more, but I see even more coming.

The importance of a downtown area stems from more than having a place to eat and a place to shop. It is the cultural center for our city. For example, this community decided that the Fort Piqua Plaza was so culturally significant, you saved it and are now preserving it.

Our downtown organization Mainstreet Piqua holds numerous opportunities to get involved and take part in the community: Taste of the Arts, Rock Piqua! Riverfront Concert Series, Christmas on the Green, the Piqua Community Farmers Market, Active Piqua Cyclovia, and more.

The city and the community need to use and to promote the assets that Piqua has for it to continue to grow. Piqua is not a county seat, while our neighbors Sidney and Troy are. In addition to being a good location for manufacturing and industry, Piqua has the riverfront and the bike path to draw in more residents and visitors.

The Downtown Riverfront Redevelopment Strategy and the Historic East Piqua Plan are two long-term – 20 to 30 years down the line before total completion – improvement plans for Piqua. I see the city and community discussing them in the numerous city commission meetings and work sessions in addition to a random Planning Piqua meeting at the library that I have attended in my short time at the Piqua Daily Call.

The Downtown Riverfront Redevelopment Strategy is looking at better opening up access to and interacting with the Great Miami River. Piqua is at the beginning or end of 330 miles of paved trails, some of which sidle up next to the river, and is also home to riverfront commercial real estate with at-grade access to the trail and river.

Moving the history wall at Lock 9 and opening up that park area to the intersection of Main and Water were discussed. Restaurants with a riverfront view were discussed. Urban lofts were also discussed for the Zollinger Building.

The Historic East Piqua Plan also looks at making connections to the river, preserving the neighborhood character, and beautifying the downtown area overall. The biggest talk was about expanding the Roosevelt Field House and Wertz Stadium right up the river and working on that idea over a long expanse of time. Space for townhouses was also discussed.

These broad plans spell out tourism and economic growth. It also spells out making Piqua a really cool place to live. These plans are also meant to span over decades, making the progress cost-effective and affordable.

In addition to those plans, there is the bike path and the growing popularity of bicycling. Many of us are still bitter about having to share the road and losing portions of County Road 25-A to bike lanes. As someone who hates to exercise – and will probably be paying for it later in life unless I begin to change my ways – I can sympathize. What I cannot deny, though, is the ties that bicycling has to economic growth.

A Portland 2012 study showed how customers who used a bicycle or walked to get to a business spent more money at businesses they frequented than customers who drove. Specifically, the drivers would spend more per visit, but the bicyclists visited more often and spent more overall.

In 2009, New York created its first protected bike lanes on 8th and 9th avenues in Manhattan. Another 2012 study found that local retail sales had increased by 49 percent near the newly separated bike lanes, compared to a 3 percent increase in the whole borough, according to MovabilityAustin.org.

In a 2008 study from the University of Cincinnati, researchers Rainer vom Hofe and Olivier Parent found a direct correlation between home prices and the proximity of the home to a bike path. For every foot closer to the bike path, there was a $7.05 increase. Overall, buyers were willing to pay $9,000 more for a home 1,000 feet closer to a bike trail.

I have also interviewed people coming from all over Ohio, Kentucky, and Michigan who are doing circuit hikes on the Buckeye Trail who have come into our community. According to Darren Flusche of the League of American Bicyclists and his article “Bicycling means business: The economic benefits of bicycle infrastructure, “the nation’s 60 million annual recreational bicyclists spend $46.9 billion on meals, transportation, lodging, gifts and entertainment.”

I hate riding bikes, but this all makes me want to get on a bike.

“The problem with this is that our downtown abuts a large concentration of Piqua’s low income people. A lot of the cheaper rental homes are there also. It’s a rougher group. It is not the projected audience the city of Piqua had in mind,” guest columnist Bill Jaqua wrote in his recent column, “City needs more than booze and canoes.”

That is an unfair, offensive generalization. It does not make me feel welcome here. Is that the message we really want to send to world?

I am looking forward to seeing what happens with the downtown river, Historic East Piqua, and how Piqua further embraces bicycling and healthy activities. These are good opportunities to explore the good aspects that Piqua has to offer and to expand upon. The messages that those aspects send, from connecting to the riverfront to promoting healthy activity, send good messages about what the community is about.