Wilder Leaders Envision Transformation, Rejuvenation of City
Wilder Mayor Robert Arnold loves his city.
“Wilder is a wonderful place to raise a family,” he said. “The neighborhoods are safe, well kept, and the people are very friendly and helpful to each other.”
According to Arnold, it is hard to beat the location of Wilder.
“We are very close to major interstates, the airport, and downtown Cincinnati,” he said. “It is very easy to go in any direction.”
Direction is a subject heavy on the minds of Arnold and other city leaders. In fact, they are making big plans for the city, with goals to improve amenities and grow business and residency.
In 2018, Wilder undertook the research for the comprehensive plan which had not been updated in 20 years. In 2019, city officials began the budgeting and planning process to address the items in the plan. This year they are poised to begin the implementation of the plan.
“The two most exciting undertakings are the amenities we are bringing to the City Center and the economic development plans,” Arnold said.
Building a new fire station next the city building, for example, will allow city leaders to upgrade the park there.
“The real exciting addition there will be a splash pad which is the first one in Campbell County,” Arnold said. “Also, the $250,000 grant for Fredrick's Landing, the crown jewel of the city, will be the start of making improvements there which also includes adding an amphitheater. These two parks will be completely transformed over the next few years.”
As for economic development, Arnold said the city has strategically purchased land in the City Center when it became available and now have the ability to bring development to the area.
“This activity will not only add to the tax base thus continuing to keep property taxes low but it will add some amenities to the area that were called out in the comprehensive at the request of the residents of our city,” he said.
According to City Administrator Terry Vance, there is a need to attract visitors, and new residents, and businesses to Wilder.
“We also want to encourage existing residents and businesses to remain by providing improvements to our physical amenities like sidewalks, new recreation facilities, and new shopping and dining opportunities,” he said.
A recent market analysis left city leaders wanting to ensure, as much as possible, that land uses on vacant or redeveloped land maximize economic potential and long-term goals for the city.
“Land uses permitted, encouraged or required are those that serve to meet the findings of our comprehensive plan and are suitable within the areas of the city where located,” Vance said. “For example, land uses in the City Center District that encourage gathering or cater to outdoor recreation would be a higher priority than uses such as offices, banks, auto supply and repair or gas station and convenience stores that currently exist and provide such service.”
Vance said additional desired uses could be those that cater to a walkable environment.
Specific plans for Frederick’s Landing could see a restaurant with indoor and alfresco dining and a boat house near the water that would offer a gathering and eating spot. Both would be just walking distance from an amphitheater where live performances could be held in the spring, summer and fall. There is also a plan to revamp the old firehouse off of Route 9 into a hot dining spot.
Also along Route 9, there could be development of a two-story office building, as well as high end apartment complexes with first-floor retail.
Meanwhile, land uses in the Licking South District, Vance said, could include those more “auto centric” land uses to capture clientèle from adjacent interstate high way.
Another key point from the market study, is the need to create and manage systems to ensure that existing and future properties within the built environment maintain vitality.
“While directly referring to mutli-family structures, this theme should be extended to all land uses and facilities, both public and private,” Vance said. “In this sense, maintenance can be considered a component of attraction as well-maintained properties will attract positive attention. Furthermore, maintenance of the natural environment is important and is also connected to attraction.”
According to Vance, there are plans for a Request For Proposals (RFP) sometime in March. After that, developers will have about 60 days to respond if they are interested.
“The purpose of doing it this way rather than putting the property up for sale is the city has greater control over what and when things develop,” he said. “We will have a committee in place that will look at all proposals and see which one best fits the city’s goals and maximizes the land use to the highest and best use.”
The RFP will be for all of the parcels in the plan.
“We hope to have the developer selected by early summer and begin negotiations with them to start development,” Vance said. “We expect development to take a least a year or more and maybe longer for some of the sites depending on how they are developed.”
Written by Melissa Reinert, RCN contributor