City of Piqua to refocus on Lock 9 improvements in coming year


By Haylee Pence

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PIQUA – Big changes will be underway at the Lock 9 Riverfront Park in Piqua in the coming year. The park is located at 125 East Water St. in downtown Piqua, and it overlooks the Great Miami River.

First identified by the 2007 Comprehensive Plan and subsequently advanced by the Downtown Riverfront Redevelopment Strategy, the proposed redevelopment is part of the broader downtown Placemaking Initiative.

“The principle idea of the Placemaking Initiative is to target investment in public spaces in a manner that will leverage existing strengths and enhance the downtown environment,” according to Chris Schmiesing, Community and Economic director. The park improvements will connect the downtown environment to the trail system. Schmiesing said the city wants people to “fully utilize that amenity and enjoy the natural beauty of the river.”

The changes include adding walking paths to connect the trail system to Main and Water Streets, which will allow people to move between downtown shopping and the trail system. Terrace seating will be added along the levee face, and after many years of being buried, the lock walls have been exposed to demonstrate to pedestrians and cyclists moving along the length of the lock wills the changing elevation from the river elevation up to street grade, much like when the locks were used to raise and lower canal boats. A small water feature will be added, as well as a board walk that will provide a transition between the public park space and the back of the building on Main Street. Tree groves at the entrances of the park will flank a community lawn space looking onto a performance pavilion that overlooks the river.

Schmiesing stated, “The project will create a signature public space that connects the river corridor and the trail system to the downtown and promotes a positive image of the community.

The initial phase of the project was completed before the pandemic, which involved undergrounding utilities and sewer systems and exposing the lock walls. The intent was to complete the subsequent phases in 2020 and 2021, however, the uncertainty prompted by the pandemic resulted in the project being delayed.

With funding for the next phase of the project in place, including a $500,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, bids for construction will be solicited early next year with an early spring target date to commence with construction.

The Lock 9 Riverfront Park area has rich history that they hope to enhance and show off to local residents and tourists. The Miami Erie Canal provided the area with substantial growth by allowing trade of products quickly. The reconstruction project is hoping to enlighten people about the impact the canal had on the city of Piqua.

The project is expected to be a catalyst that will stimulate increased social, recreational, and economic developments in that area. Several significant new private sector investments that are also in the works, including a microbrewery, loft-style apartments, and townhouses overlooking the park. Additional restaurants and speciality shops and living units are also targeted for the area. Schmiesing said he is continuing to “engage with prospective developers who understand the potential of the riverfront area.”

“The public improvements will inspire private sector interests to join in,” said Schmiesing.

The Lock 9 Park improvements are designed to provide a public gathering space for special events such as the 4th of July event and Rock Piqua concert series, as well as to serve as a hub for trail and river activities.

The changes to the Lock 9 Riverfront Park will spark changes within the downtown area. Schmiesing plans to have “conversations with property owners on how those sites could be transformed to match the new vibe,” including wi-fi access throughout the area and other spaces.

Schmiesing expects the Lock 9 Riverfront Park to support the welcoming atmosphere innovators, entrepreneurs, residents, and visitors will find in downtown Piqua.

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