Downtown Sandusky experienced incredible momentum over the past five years including over $100 million in public and
private investment that included the creation of a new City Hall, the revitalization of our waterfront with the new Jackson Street Pier and Shoreline Drive, the creation of a new college campus, the opening of over 30 new businesses, and construction of over 100 new units of housing, more than anywhere in the city. These accomplishments were the result of partnerships forged to implement goals outlined in the 2016 Bicentennial Vision Plan, and led to Sandusky being named America’s Best Coastal Small Town in 2019.

Sandusky’s downtown functions as a “business district” where there is a high density of people, places, and uses, and contributes heavily to the city’s tax base.  A strong downtown is the neighborhood for the entire city and ultimately the entire region. The current Downtown Master Plan and its recommendations build on Sandusky’s success and momentum and position Downtown Sandusky for progress over the next five years and beyond.

View The full Plan

Engagement Process

The Downtown Master Plan engaged more than 800 members of the Sandusky community, including one-on-one and group discussions with dozens of stakeholders, milestone meetings with the Steering Committee, and responses to an online Community Survey. While Sandusky staff and leadership set the course for the planning process, the Steering Committee and stakeholders ensured the plan’s Focus Area Concepts and recommendations responded to, and were shaped by community desires and feedback.

Early Priorities

Make Columbus Avenue Downtown’s Most Vibrant Street
The recently completed Jackson Street Pier and Shoreline Drive projects demonstrate how revitalized public space can catalyze private investment and transform a community. The Downtown Master Plan will build on that success with a makeover of
Columbus Avenue, Sandusky’s historic main street. Two blocks of Columbus Avenue have served as an epicenter of Sandusky’s renaissance, with over $50 million in recently completed or planned private investment. During the engagement process, viewpoints ranged from closing Columbus Avenue to vehicular traffic to making very modest changes. This plan recommends making Columbus Avenue a more vibrant street for pedestrians while maintaining vehicular traffic and on-street parking. 

A restored and modernized Sandusky State Theatre will join the recently completed Sandusky City Hall as well as the new Hogrefe-Cooke building as downtown anchors.

A strong Columbus Avenue will lead to a stronger downtown Sandusky, connecting historic Washington park to Sandusky Bay and pumping economic vitality into surrounding streets and storefronts.
In order to accomplish this goal, a remade Columbus Avenue will include:

  • Specialty paving with flush curb for increased walkability and enhanced festival condition
  • Dynamic publicly accessible seating, lighting, and public art
  • Expanded sidewalk and space for business’ outdoor dining and retail display
  • Ability to be closed to traffic for events and festivals
  • High-canopy, urban-tolerant shade trees replace existing trees
  • Tree lawn forms linear park
  • Amenity zone for additional placemaking and pedestrian attractions such as seating and public art


Anchor Hotel and Conference Center on Jackson Street Parking Lot

The Downtown Master Plan and market studies have identified an anchor hotel and conference center as being an important next step in the evolution of downtown Sandusky into a year round destination. Placing this hotel and additional development, along with a parking structure in the center of our downtown at the Jackson Street Parking Lot will maximize its impact as an economic anchor for the community.  The vision for private and public infrastructure on this site activates Water Street and downtown in several ways:

  • A new hotel will bring over 50,000 visitors a year to downtown Sandusky
  • Event space and rooftop bar captures water views
  • Anchor hotel and conference center development activates Water, Jackson and Market Streets
  • Connection to Sandusky State Theatre renovations and integration to loading zone
  • 300 space parking garage serves new uses and increases public parking
  • Alley connection increases walkability and refreshes Peddler’s Alley
  • Adaptive reuse concept for activating existing building on Jackson Street

Ensure Downtown is Programmed, Marketed and Maintained Year Round

Marketing and programming will help downtown become a regional anchor. Throughout the engagement process,
people over overwhelmingly said they wanted more events, festivals, and winter activities.
This plan recommends a thoughtful investment in year-round activities and amenities to create a great experience for residents and visitors of all ages and backgrounds. This will ultimately lead to a better environment for retailers to do business.
Neighboring communities have strong downtown organizations that typically provide this function. However, with the void created by the closure of Sandusky Main Street, there is no longer an organization whose sole focus is Downtown Sandusky.
In order to continue the momentum, it is imperative to have a downtown organization that is well-funded and dedicated to the ongoing programming, marketing and maintenance of the neighborhood. The City of Sandusky looks forward to working with partners and stakeholders to create a sustainable organization dedicated to this vision.


Watch the full presentation of the draft of the Downtown Sandusky Master Plan to the Sandusky Planning Commission from January 27, 2021 below: