City Analysis

Students survey La Grange’s
potential for moving forward

Main Street officials
hope new ideas will emerge

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

LA GRANGE, Ky. (February 2011) – Linda Goin firmly believes La Grange has potential and she is determined to prove it. As executive director of Discover Downtown La Grange, Goin feels compelled to make sure the city goes beyond anyone’s expectations.
To some, these expectations may have waned over the years when planned projects didn’t materialize. But now, with the help of the University of Cincinnati, a group of graduate level students are planning to redesign the town and create a whole new future for residents and visitors alike.
The students visited La Grange on Jan. 15 to hold an “introductory meeting,” Goin said. They studied hardscape, design and economic revitalization.
The meeting was held in the Rob Morris Educational Building on the grounds of the Oldham County History Center. Approximately 50 people attended, with 20 of them students, said Goin. Afterward, they took photos and spoke to individuals in the community.
“The meeting was absolutely successful,” she said. Discover Downtown La Grange had asked several community leaders to sit on a panel to listen and ask questions of the students.
DDL is active in the community having recently elected four new board members and moved into the Little Blue House in mid-January. The building is owned by the city of La Grange.
Led by Michael Romanos, professor of Planning and Economic Development at the University of Cincinnati School of Planning, the students visited La Grange for the first time in November 2010. Goin met Romanos, who is also director of the Center for Research in Urban Development, and decided the timing was perfect for such a project because it “followed on the coattails of the tourism consultant Roger Brooks’ visit,” said Goin.
Brooks, founder of Destination Development International, has visited the county before to assess its potential for development. He has assisted communities around the world, transforming them into more attractive places to live, work and visit.
Brooks gave us an overview of the county during his last visit. La Grange Mayor Bill Lammlein said he hopes the city can take “what (Brooks) came up with and the university and meld it together.”
Lammlein said the benefit to La Grange is that the project “gives us a plan. The problem with La Grange and Oldham County in general, is that there are no future plans.” He hopes the city will use this project as a blueprint plan to move forward within the next five to 10 years.
In the 35 years he has lived in Oldham County, Lammlein said there have been “some positive changes, and some negative changes over the years. You never have all positive changes; unfortunately, that’s due to a lack of planning.”
Lammlein said he would like to see an interurban park built within the historic district limits. It would be a sort of “family gathering place,” containing a water park, skate park, amphitheater and farmers market.
He said it is a privilege to work with the University of Cincinnati. “Having outside experienced eyes to recognize what issues could be improved upon is a huge benefit for us,” said Linda Corbin, chair for the La Grange Historic Districts Commission. “They listened to our concerns. Some ideas could be expanded farther than the city.”
She conceded that La Grange has seen a lot of changes recently with the election of a new mayor and a not-so-perfect economy. Both of these “leave the city open for suggestions upon improvement.”
As a follow-up measure, a charette is planned for Feb. 12. “Students will come back with a proposal and get feedback,” Goin said. This charette will be “vital to the community to see how to re-use the downtown area.”
There will be a cost to the city for the strategy the University of Cincinnati puts together, based upon expenses incurred. “I can tell you it is the bargain of a lifetime,” said Lammlein.

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