One of the more intriguing proposals in Steubenville's comprehensive plan calls for the creation of a civic plaza.
The implementation process of the plan, which was approved by members of City Council last September, is being driven by Urban Projects Director Chris Petrossi and a committee of volunteers from around the community. The plaza was one of the topics covered when that group met Tuesday at Historic Fort Steuben.
There are a couple of different proposals for the project, both of which would change the look of Market Street between Court and Third streets in the area of the City Building and the Jefferson County Courthouse. One calls for the narrowing of Market Street and the expansion of existing green space, and the other calls for the abandonment of the street in that block and the creation of a larger green space that would connect the two buildings.
It's the second option that seems to be the most interesting. If implemented, the civic plaza (that's its operating name) would provide an ideal place for residents of our area, those who live and work downtown and those who are visiting, to just sit back and take a break, a place to relax.
Petrossi pointed out during Tuesday's meeting that while a town square is a common feature of many communities, it is something that's lacking in Steubenville. That open space would be seen as being more accommodating by people.
"It could be a place where people could gather to give speeches, or maybe even read poetry," Petrossi explained to the implementation committee, of which I am a member. "The concept can be as big or as small as you want to make it."
Finding the money to bring the concept to life is, of course, a concern, but Mayor Domenick Mucci said members of the community he has talked with are excited about the proposal. Mucci added he already has discussed possible funding sources with Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association.
There are some questions about abandoning that one block, however, and they were shared by John J. Mascio.
The local attorney knows a lot about that area of the city. He served as Steubenville's law director in the old City Building and as a Jefferson County Common Pleas judge in the courthouse, a building he continues to argue cases in.
One of Mascio's concerns is that traffic coming off the Market Street Bridge will have to turn either north or south on Third Street instead of being able to continue right up Market into the heart of town. Other concerns include the potential back-up of traffic on both sides of Third Street at the entrance to the bridge during certain times of the day and access to the courthouse for deliveries.
Legitimate questions, for sure, that certainly will need to be addressed as plans for the project move ahead. As Petrossi and Mucci pointed out, though, Third Street between Adams and Washington streets will have a different look in the future, driven in part by the city looking at improving parking in the area south of the police station and the county looking at tearing down the courthouse annex once it completes moving the offices housed there to the Towers.
There's no reason why those concerns can't be addressed, though, and the civic plaza project can't go forward. It would be a nice complement to the fort complex and would give area residents a place where they could sit down, relax and enjoy the company of their friends and neighbors.
By the way, the implementation committee meetings are open to the public and offer all residents a chance to weigh in on the future of our community.
(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)