Here are some answers:
What is Activate Troy?
Activate Troy is a public-private partnership formed to study and coordinate key community efforts impacting quality of life for all Troy residents. It was originally formed as a steering committee to advise and direct efforts involving the downtown and riverfront initiative in order to assure a collaborative, well-rounded and realistic approach to development.
Stakeholders include representatives from Troy Main Street, Troy Development Corporation, Troy Chamber of Commerce, Troy Community Works, The Troy Foundation, The Paul G. Duke Foundation, Troy City Council, the City of Troy and private investors.
Public-private partnerships, such as Activate Troy, are becoming increasingly prevalent and critical to the success of progressive communities. As public monies shrink, private developers and funders are key to sustainable community growth. Working together, stakeholders assure that responsible, strategic investments, of both public and private funding, are leveraged within communities to the common benefit of all.
Although currently focused on two key initiatives (the downtown/riverfront study and community-wide branding), it is foreseen the Activate Troy Partnership will continue, bringing appropriate stakeholders to the table to study, collaborate and inform the decision-making processes relating to future issues critical to Troy’s sustained growth.
Who conducted the study?
MKSK Studios, an award winning planning and urban design firm, led development of the study. MKSK is known for its work on nationally recognized projects like Columbus’ Scioto Mile, Louisville’s Waterfront Park and Dayton’s Riverscape. MKSK assembled an integrated team of experts including Greenstreet Ltd for market analysis, BLDG for branding and graphic design, and LJB for engineering. Troy Main Street engaged Sparkafire Strategies, on behalf of the Activate Troy Partnership, to provide community engagement and communications consulting.
These professionals brought with them experience and best practices in downtown revitalization, historic district redevelopment and community placemaking.
Why is this study being done now?
A global economy, shifting demographics and the need for workforce development - these are just some of the issues facing Troy. The demand to stay competitive, not just with regional and neighboring cities, but with cities from around the globe, is greater than at any other time in our history.
As more of our residents retire, more of our younger citizens are migrating to other communities that offer amenities and quality of life opportunities they don’t think they can find in Troy. The result is a shrinking population that could threaten our income base, reduce funding for city services and schools, negatively affect housing values and place burden upon all residents.
In our region, more than 12,000 jobs, many of them high-paying, go unfilled each year, thus threatening Troy’s economic competitiveness and our ability to meet the needs of our largest employers. Without a sustainable commercial and industrial economy, we cannot assure the unique quality of life that residents have come to enjoy in Troy.
Our goal with this study was to create and communicate a vision for Troy that drives economic growth, increased investment and talent attraction/retention to help us meet head-on the challenges we face.
does troy city council need to approve the study?
MKSK was contracted to complete a study of Troy’s riverfront and downtown - not a plan. The study uncovers key trends, opportunities and indicators that impact the sustained growth of downtown. It serves as a blueprint designed to inform city officials, non-profit stakeholders, private enterprise and residents of the enormous potential that lies in strategically and appropriately developing our downtown and riverfront district.
This study does not commit the city to any significant projects or expenditures. Before any specific public realm implementation would begin, City Council, when appropriate, would be involved in those decisions. Therefore, council does not need to approve this study per se.
However, Activate Troy has made sure City Council has been informed and engaged throughout this process. Council members were invited to take part in the initial focus groups, the study has been discussed at numerous Council meetings and work sessions, and a member of city council regularly attends Activate Troy Partnership meetings.
What were some of the study's key findings?
MKSK assembled a team of professional consultants to inform and guide the study’s recommendations. Among these consultants was Greenstreet Ltd., known nationally for their advisory services in real estate market analysis. The Greenstreet findings uncovered several key indicators that point to tremendous opportunity for Troy’s strategic growth.
Some of these findings include:
- Over the next 15 years, half of all demand for housing in the U.S. will be from single-person households.
- Currently 93 percent of what’s built in Troy is single-family, detached, large homes, with only half of all demand in the U.S. being for this type of housing.
- A shortage exists in Troy of the type of housing that will be most in demand over the next decade - namely small, detached, low-maintenance senior housing and multi-unit, mixed use rentals for millennials.
Potential for Growth:
- Being home to the county seat and having several large employers headquartered here, Troy is an employment hub.
- However, few people both live and work within the township. More than 14,000 people work here, but live, shop and pay taxes elsewhere. Nearly 3400 of these workers are younger (29 years and under). If provided the right housing options and lifestyle amenities, these younger workers represent significant growth potential for Troy.
Commercial, Retail and Entertainment Potential:
- Nearly $30 million of household expenditures within downtown Troy leave the downtown trade area. Additional and more diverse commercial activity could capture a greater share of these household expenditures.
- Attracting new visitors, employees and residents could increase demand for retail, commercial and office space.
Trends Most Likely to Impact Downtown:
- An aging population must be balanced against attraction of younger households
- New real estate demand must be met with sufficient supply at the right price (affordable)
- Momentum of downtown investments and development must continue to attract new private investments
- Downtown infill sites must be leveraged to diversify Troy’s housing options and provide new commercial space
How was the study developed?
The process involved three phases: Understanding, Idea Testing, Deciding & Doing
Understanding: The research phase involved assessment of existing conditions, data gathering and direct interviews with residents, business owners and major employers in the area. These findings were overlain with best practices and benchmarking data to develop an initial set of concepts.
Idea Testing: Concepts were then presented for feedback via focus groups, public presentations and an online survey.
Certain ideas, such as a temporary bike lane on W. Water Street and the Cherry Street Commons, were “activated” to test their validity and endurance.
Deciding & Doing: MKSK took the lessons learned in the first two phases and developed the final study, offering several possibilities for strategic thoughtful development -- and offering a vision for what the future of Troy could look like.
The final study encompassing the entire downtown and riverfront district with more detailed looks at four priority areas:
- The Public Square and Prouty Plaza
- The River District
- Infill Housing
- The “Troy Truckyard”
Although these four areas were selected for a “deeper dive,” it does not mean plans are underway to develop these projects. The study simply establishes a more detailed vision for these projects and how they could contribute to the growth of the city’s core.
Who paid for the study?
The study represents a public-private investment in the city’s future. It was paid for by stakeholders of the Activate Troy Partnership including Troy Main Street, Troy Development Council, Troy Community Works, The City of Troy, The Troy Foundation, The Paul G. Duke Foundation and private investors.
The study’s primary purpose is to facilitate strategic growth within the downtown and historic riverfront district by identifying opportunities for private investment and commercial growth.
The stakeholders have taken the lead in making sure such growth is within the context of a forward-thinking framework - or blueprint - that provides for the economic vitality and quality of life for all residents and citizens. This includes ensuring development is done with careful forethought for the legacy and historic nature of downtown Troy and the riverfront.
The city’s ongoing responsibility will be to deliver investor-ready incentives, analysis, guidance and infrastructure aimed at attracting investments to Troy rather than neighboring communities. And, when appropriate, before any significant projects or expenditures were made, City Council would be asked to approve.
Are there any conflicts of interest having private developers involved in this study?
If the downtown and riverfront revitalization is to succeed, it will be dependent on private investors and developers. The developers involved in this study are leaders of organizations charged with ensuring the strength and vitality of our local economy and business climate, including Troy Main Street and Troy Community Works.
These private sector representatives brought critical and uniquely local perspectives to the study. Their insights and expertise have been invaluable to the process.
Who's responsible for implementing this? Who owns the study?
The Activate Troy Partnership will continue to coordinate from a high level the implementation of this plan - making recommendations as to prioritization of projects and phases.
The Mayor and City Administration will be responsible for assuring policies and infrastructure are investor-ready. Public realm projects, or use of significant public monies, when appropriate, will be approved by City Council.
What about downtown parking?
Although not part of the MKSK study, Activate Troy is very aware that parking is a significant consideration of any downtown development initiative. A separate parking study was completed on behalf of the city with the objectives of more availability and better wayfinding signs.
What about our existing city amenities and investments, does this study take them into account?
This study is focused on downtown and the historic river corridor. As part of the study, MKSK asked the Activate Troy Partnership to choose four concepts for further refinement and detailing. All these priority concepts, in some way, touch on existing amenities. The four concepts are:
- the redesign of the public square and fountain, including a new vision for Prouty Plaza as the central public gathering space and cultural heart of downtown;
- repurposing abandoned and underused properties for infill housing;
- reimagining our entire riverfront as a new “outdoor living room” for the city;
- transforming a blighted area into a creative event space - the “Troy Truckyard” - to serve as an alternative rec room for the city.
Although sites such as Treasure Island, Duke Park, Hobart Arena and other areas were not specifically addressed in these priority concepts, the study places much emphasis on leveraging these assets to connect them with downtown and the riverfront district.
In particular, the study recommends several connectivity strategies, including bike paths and a pedestrian bridge, to serve as key connectors to existing amenities. These strategies would be phased in at appropriate times based on private development opportunities and public demand.
What is the feasibility/Practicality of these concepts?
Some citizens have questioned whether the concepts presented are able to be implemented. We will complete feasibility studies before implementing any of these concepts. In many cases, private developers will bear the costs of doing those feasibility studies. Furthermore, if those studies tell us it is feasible to implement the concepts, private developers may bear those costs as well.
How will the study advance quality of life for all ages?
Troy’s future depends on building an intergenerational culture. We ignore shifting demographics at our own peril. Troy’s workforce is aging and retiring, while our younger citizens are moving on. More than 14,000 people work in Troy, but live, shop, dine and send their children to schools somewhere other than Troy. Our major global employers woefully lack access to the talent they need. And our seniors are looking for ways to downsize their homes while upscaling their lifestyle. These trends, depending on how we respond, either offer us opportunities to rise above neighboring communities, or place our future in jeopardy. This study was commissioned to help us face and respond to these demographic and economic shifts.
The study recommends venues for creative events, preserving historic sites for new uses, incentives for attracting enterprise, opportunities for artistic expression, innovative programming, housing alternatives for all generations and much, much more. By optimizing our downtown and riverfront, we can offer the amenities and lifestyle that millennials, empty nesters, small families and seniors all want.
Thoughtful policies and procedures will be followed as we pursue this path of strategic growth. But, we must be bold - and we must begin now.
Why are bike lanes and pedestrian walkways so important to the success of the Downtown Riverfront Strategic Initiative?
Unlike the post war years, when cities and lifestyles were built around the automobile, today livability is directly linked to accessibility, walkability and bikeability. Cities of all sizes are creating dynamic downtowns that offer safe, convenient ways of naturally bringing people together. These forward-thinking cities have begun to reap many quality of life benefits including enhanced wellness, a diversity of retail, dining and entertainment opportunities, more tourism and increased vitality of their downtown cores.
Often compared to a European setting, downtown Troy, with its historic square and picturesque fountain, is one of the primary assets that sets us apart from neighboring communities with whom we compete for talent, employers, shoppers and diners. Yet, current street designs and traffic patterns are the biggest hindrance holding us back from achieving, naturally, what other cities are investing billions of dollars in to build from scratch.
The Downtown Riverfront Strategic Initiative addresses this challenge on several fronts.
First, the study calls for enhanced pedestrian and bike connectivity between downtown and many of Troy’s existing amenities including the riverfront, Treasure Island and Hobart Arena. Such connectivity would further leverage Troy’s position as part of the Great Miami Riverway, a collaborative regional effort linking existing land and water trails with vibrant riverfront communities. Future phases of the study envision connectivity between downtown and the nation’s largest system of paved biking and walking trails. These trails pass by our downtown, with no means of easily bringing thousands of touring bikers and walkers into our downtown.
The downtown study, and many of its recommendations, seek to remedy this lack of connectivity to both local and regional assets.
But there is a second, often overlooked, need for what is known as Complete Streets. The Complete Streets movement traces its roots to 1971 and has evolved into a transportation policy requiring streets be safe and conveniently accessible for users of all ages and abilities, regardless of their mode of transportation. These design guidelines contend roads are public spaces belonging to all people, and that people, not cars, are the highest priority on city streets. Many legislative and regional planning agencies agree.
In 2011, the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission adopted a Complete Streets policy which stipulates any future projects funded with regionally controlled federal dollars must be Complete Streets. In 2017, Troy City Council adopted a complete streets policy.
Complete Streets, those that are pedestrian and bike friendly, are key to the downtown riverfront initiative and quality of life in Troy. With complete streets, shops and restaurants flow out onto the sidewalks, tourists to window shop and neighbors stop and visit one another within the setting of an active downtown.
What is the "Troy Truckyard"?
“Troy Truckyard” is the working name for what planners envision as a non-traditional outdoor venue for creative events. Designed to encourage interactivity and high energy, the venue would be a flex space with the capacity of accommodating any number of activities from art shows to food truck festivals (thus the working name “Troy Truckyard”).
Although the study suggests possible locations for this on E. Water Street, no plans, for either the final location or name of the space, have been finalized.
What happens to the Van Cleve School?
As part of its initial long-term study, MKSK provided several mixed use design considerations for the Van Cleve School. These were simply conceptual renderings. The school is still in operation, and as an asset of the Board of Education, there are no actual plans for this site at this time.
How do we preserve Troy's historic and unique character while advancing opportunities?
MKSK and the Activate Troy Partnership recognize the unique character of Troy. This study actually builds upon that character, leveraging what makes Troy a special city into what can make Troy a standout city.
Often compared with a European setting, Troy’s historic riverfront, quaint downtown, public square and fountain give our city something very few neighboring cities have - an urban core where people of all ages want to live, work, congregate and shop.
With an eye toward historic preservation and strategic growth, this study helps create a vision for Troy’s future.
Are these concepts equitable and sustainable?
Private industry, private development has shaped downtown Troy since its founding. Remnants of that industry and development dot the landscape of our downtown. Some have asked whether if, in encouraging a new wave of private investment downtown, we don’t run the risk of creating the blighted sites of tomorrow.
That is why it was critical to conduct this study. Stakeholders of the Activate Troy Partnership are committed to the long-term sustainability of Troy’s cultural, historic and economic assets, while also adding new amenities to complement what already exists.
At the same time, private development and investment is the only way to assure our future. Private investment drives job creation, infrastructure and opportunity, therefore we must do everything to encourage these investments within the context of a long-range, sustainable growth strategy for the city.
What measures are being taken to assure the riverfront is preserved as public green space for everyone's enjoyment?
While the study calls for infill housing and mixed use development along the river, it also provides for ample public spaces. One element of the riverfront district suggests creating what MKSK calls the community’s outdoor living room - a parklike area where citizens and visitors might sit, take in views of the river, enjoy a private picnic or a public dinner.
The Activate Troy Partnership understands the significance of the riverfront as public space and any future development would be planned to complement the riverfront, not detract from it.
Who do I contact for more information?
Ben Redick, President of Troy Main Street