MACEDONIA -- After nearly 18 months of planning the city's Redevelopment and Future Growth Committee has turned its recommendations over to city officials for review. Among the biggest change is a proposed downtown area.

The committee was comprised of nine community members from all ages and walks of live including Chairman Kevin Westbrooks, Secretary Jessica Brandt, Sonja Becker, Kevin Bilkie, Chris Coblentz, Bundle Dalrymple, Al Kalish, Roy Metzel and Emilie Quesada.

Former Mayor Don Kuchta formed the committee in May 2015 to carry on the work of previous Future Growth Committees which was originally created in 1996 by Mayor Joe Migliorini. Kuchta served on that first committee prior to being elected mayor. Kalish and Metzel served on the first committee alongside Kuchta.

Brandt said right away the new committee took note there was not much "future growth" to be had in the city. as Macedonia has been built up during the past 30 years. So, the committee's first order of business was to change the name to "Redevelopment and Future Growth Committee."

Brandt said during the course of the 18 months the committee met with all city department heads to establish where the city is and some history so members could determine where the city needs to go. While the report addresses city departments, the report states the committee did not believe they had the "expertise to make recommendations on behalf of the city departments." However, the committee recommends taking care of what the city has and forming a maintenance and modernization plan for Macedonia's buildings, equipment and systems.

Bilkie said there were many ideas passed around but not all made the report because the committee wanted to narrow the scope to the most plausible ideas for the city.

"One of the goals for me was to look at what were the things that during the next 20 years make our city better," Bilkie said adding it's important to understand the ideas proposed in the report are not things the city would immediately look at doing.

Branding the city was one idea.

"When you have a city that has a school district that combines other cities, you kind of lose your self-identity," Bilkie said.

Macedonia has billed itself as "The Crossroads of Northeast Ohio" for many years, but the committee said it may be time to revisit the slogan, as Independence also utilizes the the tag line. Brandt said while the committee didn't not make suggestions for a specific brand, the members collectively felt the city should bring in an expert advertising or marketing who specializes in city branding to make recommendations and provide signage, stationary, pamphlets and other materials.

The biggest change suggested by the committee is the development of a city center. Westbrooks said the downtown area is a "want" for the city as opposed to a "need" but feels it would be an attraction for people to stay.

"It would entice younger families and active people to move here," Westbrooks said.

Bilkie said the downtown area would serve everyone in the community as senior residents who reside nearby in The Villas at Taramina, Vista Springs and other senior communities could easily get to the area as well as their visitors.

"I think this would make a shining mark on our city and add a touch of class," Bilkie said. "One of the things we wanted for a downtown was for people who came here for a day of shopping, have a nice place to go out to dinner and not leave to go someplace else, and for people who live here to be within walking distance to have a nice place to go."

The proposed area would carry on the city's conceptual Western Reserve look, but have facades that will allow them to have their own look similar to the First and Main area in Hudson. The proposed downtown area was inspired by Portage Crossing in Cuyahoga Falls, Eton Shopping Center in Woodmere and Legacy Village in Beachwood.

The committee would like to see the area emanate from City Hall, which would require the acquisition of the homes on Park Avenue and spread to Route 82 and Valley View Road. Because the committee said they were not all well-versed in the zoning laws and codes the recommendation was to bring in experts to evaluate how building such an area could be accomplished.

In partnership with developing downtown, beautification is a goal the committee would like to continue. Suggestions such as building gateways to the city. either architehctual or landscaped, and bringing in public art to be eye-catching. Brandt said public art was her favorite part of the report and feels it could be cost-effective and could inspire community involvement. Many ideas were outlined in the report such as decorative trash cans, traffic light and electrical boxes throughout the area could be painted as they are in Twinsburg, or even a mural under the I-271 overpass on Route 82.

"I remember almost every piece of public art I have seen just driving down the road seeing weird sculptures, paintings, trash cans or flower pots that are painted, and I see it in Akron, Cleveland and different neighborhoods," Brandt said. "I would love to be known as a city that has a particular piece of art rather than a city that happens to have an Outback or Wendys."

Brandt said she would also love to see a large piece of art such as the "Free Stamp" in Cleveland or the "Cloud Gate" Mirror Sculpture in Chicago to set the city apart from others in the area.

Expanding recreation facilities is another goal of the committee to include a splash park, an outdoor pool, or even a full "family aquatic center" as Aurora's Wildwater Kingdom closed. The report stated the committee felt the city could benefit from adding such features. Improvements to Longwood Park including community gardens, basketball, tennis and volleyball courts, an ice rink, amphitheater, trail improvements and a "market day" were outlined in the report as well as improvements to other city parks.

Briana Barker: 330-541-9432