MOUNT VERNON — Downtown Mount Vernon is about to receive dozens of new parking spaces thanks to the creation of five new lots along South Gay Street.
These parking lots will add more than 150 parking spaces downtown. Three of the five will be open to the public full-time. The other two lots will be used by Central Ohio Technical College and Mount Vernon Nazarene University students and staff during the day, but will open to the public in the evening.
The Mount Vernon Development Company, a local non-profit, will own four of the lots while COTC will own the fifth. The Ariel Foundation is providing a grant relationship to help cover the cost for construction of the four lots owned by the development company and is also assisting COTC for their lot revitalization.
“Things are taking shape and there has been a flurry of conversation by community members who are regularly checking in on the progress of these projects,” Jen Odenweller, Executive Director for the Ariel Foundation, said via email to the News. “We are anxious to get them completed before it gets too cold to pour concrete.”
In a press release sent to the News by Odenweller, she said that all the lots will be completed before winter arrives and that the projects are moving forward daily in significant ways.
The first lot to be finished, Odenweller mentioned, is the COTC lot. This is lot five and is located on the corner of South Gay Street and East Ohio Avenue across from Local Smoke BBQ. It will the first of the five lots to be completed. It will be repaved and finished to be in a similar style with the other lots. The lot will be used by COTC staff and students during the day, offering 25 spots that will open for the public in the evenings and weekends.
Lot one is located on the corner of South Gay and East Vine streets across from the Mount Vernon News. MVNU will use it for its newly accredited engineering program which is located on South Main. During the evenings and weekends, the 18 space lot will be open to the public. Odenweller said that this lot will be completed shortly after the COTC lot.
Lot two is on the southwest corner of East Ohio Avenue and South Gay Street next to the MTVarts building. This 22 space lot will be open to the public full time.
It’s anticipated by Odenweller that this lot will be the third lot to be finished followed by lot three and the lot along the viaduct to be completed last.
Lot three is the largest of them, offering about 78 spots. It will be on the northeast corner of Howard Street and South Gay Street across from the old Chamber of Commerce building. This lot will be open to the public full time.
Lot four will be at the beginning of South Gay Street on the north side of the viaduct next to Heritage Center Park. This lot will be open to the public full time and offer 26 spots.
“The final piece of this project will involve a lot that provides a view of the Kokosing River and connects the Kokosing Gap Trail to downtown Mount Vernon,” said Odenweller. This area will have the feel of a park and include a repurposed gazebo from Mount Vernon Nazarene University’s Buchwald Plaza.
“We are excited as this lot will provide a unique view of the river and lighted bridges in that area, plus a great view of Rastin Tower in Ariel-Foundation Park.”
Installation of bicycle racks throughout the various project sites, and in other priority locations, is a part of the vision for better connectivity for bicyclists as a means of alternative transportation in downtown.
Jeff Gottke, vice president of Knox County Area Development Foundation, talked about how these lots fit in with the overall plans for downtown development.
“A parking study done about two years ago showed that there’s more than enough parking,” he said.
He explained that they had to deal with two things when thinking about downtown development: Peak usage of the parking spaces and people’s expectations with proximity to businesses. It was recommended that a couple of new lots being created where they are being created to help with these issues.
The overall look of these lots is a part of the design enhancement for downtown, Gottke said. This includes the use of brick pavers, brick columns with lighting, and metal fences along with natural landscaping.