What is the Downtown Riverfront Initiative?
The Downtown Riverfront Initiative is a comprehensive study of Troy’s historic downtown and riverfront corridor. The study was commissioned by a group of private organizations, funders, the City of Troy, and interested stakeholders who came together to form the Activate Troy Partnership.
This study was commissioned to help us maintain and enhance the special character of our downtown and riverfront corridor, protect its sense of place, encourage investments and create a dynamic commercial and residential district that instills pride in all citizens. The objective is to create new amenities, attractions and economic opportunities to support the City in workforce attraction.
Why was this study conducted?
In 2015, Troy embarked on a journey as a community to become America’s Best Community. The contest brought together leaders across sectors to tell Troy’s story and showcase the wonderful community we have.
Troy was selected a quarterfinalist in that nationwide contest, but we didn’t stop there. Local leaders from the private, public and non-profit community identified a huge opportunity to keep the momentum going. Troy’s story is one rich in history yet strong in growth. These stakeholders came together in late 2016 to fund a study by MKSK Studios (MKSK) to evaluate how the downtown riverfront area could be strategically developed as Troy grows. This study, concluded in November 2017, will be reviewed, analyzed, promoted, and implemented over the next decade.
These local leaders formed a group called the Activate Troy Partnership (ATP), which is a public-private partnership, formed to study and coordinate key community efforts impacting quality of life for all Troy residents. It started as the steering committee to advise and direct efforts involving the MKSK downtown riverfront study but has evolved to become the leading advocacy, promotional, and inspirational group leading the efforts to transform our “living room of the community,” as Mayor Beamish calls our iconic historic downtown area. The ATP will assure that development is a collaborative, well-rounded and realistic approach that benefits all Troy residents, businesses, and visitors to our great community.
A global economy, shifting demographics, and the need for workforce development are just some of the issues facing Troy. The demand to stay competitive with regional and neighboring cities as well as cities around the globe is greater than at any other time in our history.
As more of our residents retire, 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 including many high-paying positions, go unfilled each year 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.
Who conducted the study?
MKSK, is an award winning planning and urban design firm, and led the development of the study. MKSK is known for its work on nationally recognized projects such as Columbus’s Scioto Mile, Louisville’s Waterfront Park and Dayton’s RiverScape. MKSK assembled an integrated team of experts including Greenstreet Ltd for market real estate market analysis, BLDG Refuge for branding and graphic design, and LJB, Inc. for engineering.
These professionals brought with them experience and best practices in downtown revitalization, historic district redevelopment, and community placemaking.
How was the study developed?
The process involved three phases: Understanding, Idea Testing, Deciding & Doing
Understanding: The research phase involved assessment of existing conditions in addition to 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 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 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.
The study’s key findings
MKSK’s team of professional consultants provided input and guidance for the study’s recommendations. The portion of the study conducted by Greenstreet Ltd. 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 3,400 of these workers are 29 years old or younger. 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
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 may be considered at appropriate times based on private development opportunities and public demand.
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?
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.
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.
In 1971, the Complete Streets movement began. It 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, allowing tourists to window shop and neighbors stop and visit one another within the setting of an active downtown.
What measures are being taken to assure the Riverfront is preserved as public green space for everyone's enjoyment?
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.
TO VIEW THE MKSK STUDIO STUDY, CLICK HERE
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