The Fairfield Village Green: A New Downtown for a Sustainable City
Pizzano, Arthur, Public Management
Quality of life evidences itself in a variety of ways from one jurisdiction to the next. In Fairfield, Ohio, a community approaching 45,000 residents, this intrinsic value is best manifested in the city's newly emerging downtown. When Fairfield incorporated itself as a city in 1955, its land use pattern was typical of many post--World War II suburbs, in that it developed several, disparate commercial areas but had no identifiable downtown business district to call its own. Forty years later, city officials began to take concerted steps to embark on a program that would provide a central focus for residents.
Thoughtful Planning: A Critical Element
Planning for the Fairfield Village Green started almost a decade ago, and development began in earnest over the past five years. The Village Green is envisioned as the first of four quadrants, all in the geographic center of the city that will ultimately compose Fairfield's downtown. The commitment to public and private coordination, targeted investment, and high quality has brought about a distinctive destination that has emerged as a true community gathering place.
The Village Green also is a source of intense civic pride and provides a much-needed citywide focus and "sense of place." It has been a key element in Fairfield's overall strategy to establish itself as a sustainable city, so that it can remain a community of choice as the city continues to mature.
Initial public funding occurred when the city council authorized the creation of a contoured and heavily landscaped central park, or Green. The two-acre park site had been donated as a condition of a planned-unit development (PUD) process by a local developer of what once was a 120-acre farm, by-passed by development for almost five decades. The parcel is strategically located at the city's historic crossroads and adjoins the Fairfield Municipal Building.
The Green contains a lake, meandering creeks, an assortment of water features and fountains, walking paths, an outdoor amphitheater, and a tots' playground. Construction costs for the park's development totaled $2.1 million, financed from accumulated annual cash balances from the city's general fund, which were then systematically transferred to its dedicated Downtown Development Fund. The Green lies between two parcels of land (3.0 and 4.8 acres) that were later purchased by the city to showcase two new signature public facilities.
One of these, the 25,000-square-foot Fairfield Lane Library, which opened in September 2001, is technologically advanced and features a prominent clock tower, a Vermont-slate roof, and interior vaulted ceilings. Circulation has increased 83 percent since the new facility opened, and library patron usage is up 132 percent. The library site is juxtaposed with that of the 40,000-square-foot Fairfield Community Arts Center, scheduled for completion in early 2005.
The arts center will feature a 250-seat performing arts theater, a senior citizens' lounge complete with double-sided fireplace, a child-care facility, an art gallery, and spaces for dry and wet crafts, dance, aerobics, and other individual and group activities. The facility also will contain leasable space for large gatherings and receptions in a three-section multipurpose room. There, groups will enjoy access to an adjacent, outdoor second-story deck from which to overlook events being held at the park and the amphitheater within it.
Return on Investment: Getting Down to Business
A variety of private development investment has occurred in response to this targeted use of public capital. In turn, this investment has had significant and positive economic effects on the community; 160 units of single-family residential housing have been developed within the PUD, and lot sales have exceeded expectations, particularly given the fairly unconventional nature of the project's somewhat denser, in-town subdivision configuration. …