A Vision Statement for Mariemont: All Parts

A Vision Statement for Mariemont

Vision 2021 Redux

“Dr. Emmett Brown: You’ve got to come back with me!

  Marty McFly: Where?

  Dr. Emmett Brown: Back to the future!”

By Mike Lemon and Richard Wendel

               In November 2008, the Mariemont Preservation Foundation (MPF) undertook crafting a bold plan called Vision 2021 to act as a guide for steering Mariemont into the next decade. MPF methodically collected input from hundreds of interested parties representing the entire spectrum of opinion. This included businesses, social organizations, boards and commissions, school officials, elected officials, Village employees and students

            The MPF Vision 2021 Committee was composed of respected leaders including Richard Adams, Don Keyes, Frank Raeon, Millard Rogers, Jr. and David Zack. Working as a team, they compiled a 50 page document containing their findings. In January 2011, the Vision Plan 2021 was referred by the Mayor to the Economic Development and Planning Committee for a report and recommendation. After no report was made by the committee for months, in September 2011 MPF’s leadership attended a council meeting and recommended that the Village’s elected officials appoint a broad based Vision Commission. Specifically, the Mayor was encouraged to spearhead the effort to assemble a Vision Committee comprised of 15 respected volunteers.

            Council debated elements of the plan. However, neither the Mayor nor Council moved forward on the Vision 2021 Plan proposal, nor did they modify it or develop an alternative plan. After many additional months with no report or action taken by the Economic Development and Planning Committee or the Mayor, the topic was unceremoniously dropped from the Council Agenda after April 2012.

            The potential financial benefits to the Village had the Mariemont Vision 2021 Plan been adopted in 2012 and used as a blueprint for future developments in Mariemont:

Let’s assume that the Mariemont council adopted the MPF Vision 2021 Plan to use as a guideline for the future and that an ad hoc Vision 2021 Commission with 15 members was selected and entrusted with the task of implementation.

As a first step, several full-day retreats with councilmembers, the mayor and commission members were held to condense, prioritize and financially analyze the recommendations in Vision 2021. A mission statement and strategic plan emerged on the final day of the meetings. Basically, the mission statement stated a goal “to sustain and improve upon the quality of life enjoyed by Mariemont residents and engage the community in every phase of the planning and implementation process.”

One recommendation to jump start and sustain the process was the hiring of a full time Village Administrator. Council contracted with a major consulting firm to thoroughly vet qualified candidates for this position and aid in the process of refining and implementing a strategic plan for economic development, improved services and cultural enhancements

Fiscal Sustainability

With the continued loss of revenues from the State of Ohio and inheritance taxes, the long term threat to a balanced budget was quickly recognized and, unfortunately, this downward pressure on revenues was compounded by the shrinkage of the employment base in the Westover industrial park with the closing of a major business.

It was obvious to the Council and Vision 2012 Committee that alternate pathways to fulfill budgetary needs were imperative.

  1. The opportunity to partner in JEDZs (Joint Economic Development Zones) with surrounding communities was seized upon as one available means to fill some of the funding gaps. These partnerships with local townships generated hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly in unfettered revenue. This permitted the Village to move forward on infrastructure improvements and cover the increasing cost of services without increasing taxes to residents and businesses.
  2. After being schooled in available public financing options, the Economic Development and Planning Committee of Council identified types of businesses needed for the community and pursued recruitment strategies. To stimulate economic development, incentives and tools such as the Community Reinvestment Area (CRA), Tax Increment Financing (TIFs) , and Community Investment Corporation (CIC) were considered as pathways to clean up contaminated sites, revitalize the Westover industrial park and attract new businesses. These incentive programs enabled public-private partnerships to attract new businesses and retain and grow existing ones. They had the effect of revitalizing the business community that enabled commercial property owners to improve their rents and maintenance while increasing the number of employees and customers.
  3. Council also realized that additional savings could be achieved by shared services with surrounding communities. This eliminated duplication of expensive equipment and services without compromising safety while reducing costs. A cultural shift in governance from structured independence to an atmosphere of cooperation, sharing and coordination resulted in improved relationships that leveraged mutual interests and directions.

The new financial position from these three initiatives was consistent with no new taxes even as the Village could proceed with needed improvements in infrastructure.

As part of this series, the authors invite you to consider the following questions:

  • Should Council adopt the Vision 2021 Plan or develop and communicate its own Vision Plan?
  • Should Council investigate and make a recommendation on whether to hire a qualified professional Village Administrator and rely on outside Consultants?
  • Should the Economic Development and Planning Committee proactively develop a strategic plan for business development, business retention and recruitment?
  • Would collaboration and shared services with other communities benefit the Village and lower operating costs?
  • Should Village officials reach out to other communities and begin a conversation on topics of mutual interest?


Positive Change and Outcomes

With the Vision 2021 Plan adopted by Council, Village officials initiated a collaborative program with the schools, community groups, businesses and Village service departments. Gaining consensus was a key step in real change that kept Mariemont the best community in which to live in Ohio.

  1. The financial initiatives undertaken by Council increased the pool of operating funds available to maintain quality services. For example, it enabled the Village to keep trash and recyclable collection in the rear or side of residences. This provided convenience to residents and kept the streets and driveways free of bulky containers that detracted from the curb appeal of homes and businesses. Indeed, this single distinguishing feature helped to maintain the Village’s reputation as the most walkable community in Cincinnati and provided a significant talking point for real-estate agents.
  2. The Master Plan for the South 80 developed by the Parks Advisory Board and consultants brought into focus an expanded range of possibilities for this acreage. Safety issues and crowded spaces around the Dogwood Park playfields during baseball and soccer seasons helped to focus the Parks Advisory Board and landscape architects on the potential of the South 80. An exciting schematic of the layout for additional ball fields and walking paths included:
    1. A dog park
    2. Picnic shelter and grounds
    3. A fitness trail/par course
    4. Expanded gardening plots along with a storage shed supplied with a water source and electrical outlets
    5. Expanded and repaved access road and a large convenient graveled parking area.
    6. Two regulation baseball fields
    7. Two soccer fields
    8. A circumferential paved bike path

Although flooding occurred about every three to four years in this flood plain, the structures were built to make clean-up relatively simple. These ambitious plans were made possible through economic development incentives given to new businesses and grants obtained. It became a regional attraction for local sports and recreational activities.

ODOT, meanwhile, had tabled the Eastern Corridor project because of funding issues, public resistance and engineering problems and the Oasis Rail Line project was abandoned because it was not economically viable. Thus, the concern about the Ohio 32 extension coursing through the South 80 became a nonissue. Bike path connectors were completed to the Wasson Way project, Newtown and Lunken Airport.

  1. New flower beds and landscaping highlighted a broader range of Village venues. The Village’s natural environment was compartmentalized into two landscape maintenance categories: Land Management and Landscape Maintenance. By differentiating these areas, financial reserves set aside earlier were released for the high visibility areas in the Village while giving attention to other important tracts of land. The endowment fund established for parks and the Town Center provided additional funds for capital improvements to the parks. The on-going tree planting and replacement program, based on John Nolen’s original plan, drew wide acclaim for protecting the existing urban forest in the Village. The efforts of the Tree Advisory Committee  and the accredited urban forester helped minimize the damage created by insect infestations, helped protect property values, and maintained the beautiful visual ambience of the community.
  2. Concerts in the Park and an amphitheater at the Concourse were planned to satisfy music lovers. Funds to market the Carillon concerts to the surrounding area were set aside to increase the audience for these World Class performances, a unique attraction in Mariemont. The 4th of July fireworks became a Village business sponsored annual event.
  3. Gas and electric aggregation to save on utility bills became available to all residents along with Duke Energy’s Smart Grid for energy efficiency. Aggregation eliminated the need to search for the ‘best provider and rates’ by individual household or business, even as that remained an option.
  4. Fire prevention education and voluntary home and business inspections were performed as part of shared services which helped reduce the risk of fire. Free fire alarms and carbon monoxide monitors made homes safer and lowered home insurance. The CPR training, infant car seat installation and other programs available made the Village a better, safer community.
  5. Although a national historic landmark, the Village adapted to the digital and technological age by becoming a wired community, with free Wi-Fi access throughout the Village business districts.
  6. The Village web site provided electronic filing of taxes, payments for building permits, swim and tennis passes and trash collection fees. The site also provided residents a master community calendar, business directory by category and electronic posting of the TownCryer and Minutes from Council and Council Committees.

After having fallen out of the top 25 in the 50 Greater Cincinnati suburban rankings in Cincy Magazine, Mariemont was once again ranked as a top ten community in Greater Cincinnati and was poised to close in on Number 1.

As part of this series, the authors invite you to consider the following questions:

  • Do trash and recycling containers at the curb detract from the attractiveness of the Village?
  • Do you favor development of the South 80 beyond a walking path/ vegetable garden? If so, should the Village hire a professional consultant to explore and move forward on the possibilities for the South 80?
  • Should the Village retain an urban forester to advise the Village about protecting and maintaining an ongoing tree preservation program?
  • Would you support a Concert in the Park program and other cultural events in our parks?
  • Would you like to see a gas and electric aggregation program sponsored by the Village?
  • Would you favor having Village-wide free Wi-Fi access?
  • Should the Village develop a more integrated, interactive web site with the Village Code of Ordinances, zoning requirements, archives and other pertinent Village information?

Village Gateway

A new landscaped roundabout at the 6-way intersection announced the entrance into the Village while safely guiding motorists through what had been a confusing and difficult intersection. The roundabout created a dynamic threshold between Mariemont and Columbia Township which aided revitalization on the Village’s northern boundary and helped facilitate the connection of the bike path between Fairfax and Newtown Road. The new development projects on the Village’s northern boundary replaced aging and declining properties and spawned new customers and clients for Mariemont businesses which in turn brought new jobs and new revenue to the community.

Historic District

A Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) similar to 3CDC that is revitalizing the Over-the-Rhine community breathed new life into the aging Village historic district apartments and townhouses. New revenues channeled funds into the CIC for purchasing, renovating and rehabbing the aging structures. The CIC was able to preserve the historical integrity of the buildings before selling them to private investors. The improvements and new amenities brought a a strong demand for both owner-occupied and rental living units.

Establishing the Historic District as a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District fostered road, sidewalk and park improvements through tax incentives that dove-tailed into the building improvements undertaken by the CIC.

The result was a revitalized, renovated historic district that was lauded by preservationists and urban planners in the region. The improvements made national news and created excess demand for the living units in the district.

The historic district renovation and economic development plans for the Village led to the recruitment of retail and antique stores in and around the Old Town Square. The Mariemont Preservation Foundation sponsored guided tours and carriage rides to increase tourism in the Village.


Infrastructure improvements including new sidewalks, curbing paving, signage and expanded on-street parking were carried out with the stream of new revenues, long term public financing and reserves from the permanent improvement fund. A new underground parking garage was erected behind the theatre and restaurants doubling the number of parking spaces. This relieved the Village’s intractable parking problems. A business consortium, municipal bonds and tax incentives for businesses financed the project. The project was the keystone to making the Village a true destination. It attracted new businesses, new construction and new customers. Commercial occupancy rates approached 100%.

Village traffic and safety measures were implemented based on scientific and historical data illustrating the need for change rather than perceived threats or danger. Professional analysis and engineering ended the signage proliferation that detracted from the attractiveness of the Village.

The vibrancy and excitement of Mariemont was soaring!

As part of this series, the authors invite you to consider the following questions:

  • Should Council improve safety at the six-way stop and improve the aesthetics of entry into the Village from Plainville Road?
  • Would you like to see new development on the northern boundary of the Village?
  • How should Village government participate in redeveloping the historic district?
  • Should Council undertake responsibility for a long-term parking plan for the community and hire a traffic engineering consultant?
  • Would you like to see a parking garage built for commercial business parking in the Village?
  • Does the Village have too many signs?


Town Meeting

With greater transparency and collaboration within Village Government, the Town Meetings became focused on community engagement and development. The issues facing the Village were candidly communicated and this increased the participation and attendance of residents. Reports from ad hoc committees dealing with specific issues were openly discussed to seek the best solutions and outcomes.

As a part of this new frame, greater attention was give to recruiting and nominating candidates for elected Village positions with a diverse range of skills, knowledge and experience. This added an improved leadership and management quality to Village affairs that took greater advantage of opportunities and provided solutions to any threats facing the Village. Tighter term limits were imposed for the elected positions within Village Government.

Civic Association

Greater emphasis was placed on the activities of the Civic Association. The Civic Association developed bylaws, a legal structure, a membership list and mission statement. Outside experts on various subjects gave presentations that attracted a large membership. A civic association Foundation was formed to permit private tax exempt donation and act as an operating foundation within the community with a goal of preserving the heritage of the Village.

Advisory and Community Organizations

Recognizing that public officials can’t be experts in every facet of governance, council began utilizing advisory groups extensively for fact-finding, research, and council committee recommendations. Aware of the value of advisory groups for decision-making, council found a treasure trove of expertise and community interest from the new pool of engaged citizens.

By working hand-in-hand with organizations like Marielders, Kiwanis, Mariemont Preservation Foundation and Pre-School Parents Group, community needs were better identified and addressed collaboratively.

Symbiosis with the School District

The awareness of the strong symbiotic relationship between a community and a school district led the village government and the school board to establish a joint effort to work together to improve communications and cooperative planning efforts that strengthened the bonds of the two entities for the enrichment and improvement of their common constituents.

As part of this series, the authors invite you to consider the following questions:

  • Should the annual Town Meeting expand its mission?
  • What sort of process could establish criteria to endorse nominees with a wide range of business, professional and talents for elected office?
  • How can the Civic Association become a robust organization and address a wider range of Village issues and needs?
  • Are advisory boards used effectively in the community?
  • Can village government and community organizations work together more effectively?
  • Is there room for better coordination between the Village and the school district?


The first spade of earth for the construction of Mariemont was turned by Mary Emery in 1923. In 2023 the Village celebrated the centennial of the founding of Mariemont. The dream of Mary Emery for a “National Exemplar” had moved a little closer to reality.

This vision of the Village’s future is very realistic and achievable but it will take vision and leadership to accomplish it. Adopting a vision plan, such as MPF’s Vision 2021 is a giant first step in the right direction. It is time to give this planned community a plan for its future.


“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. “—Warren Bennis

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