Placemaking Spotlight: Oxford, Ohio | Scenic America
Placemaking Spotlight: Oxford, Ohio

Recognized as the #1 Best College Town in America by Forbes, Oxford, Ohio, is brimming with new ideas and charm.

Home to Miami University, the Village of Oxford was incorporated in 1830 when the population hit about 700, and in 1970 it became a full-fledged town after adopting a charter form of government.  Originally Oxford consisted of only the Mile Square, the area around Miami University’s campus. However, in the past decades, it has grown to about seven square miles.   Currently, the city is home to over 21,000 people.  

placemaking spotlight Oxford Ohio.  I mage shows street lined with buildings.
Oxford, Ohio’s High Street, the hub of Uptown. Via Wikipedia Commons.

Miami University was founded in 1809, prior to the village’s incorporation, and is considered to be one of the Top 50 National Public Universities by U.S. News and World Report.  The campus is filled with classic brick architecture and breathtaking views.  The great American poet Robert Frost called it “the most beautiful campus that there ever was.”

Seth Cropenbaker, the assistant to the City Manager, spoke on the relationship between Miami University and the town of Oxford.

“It’s no secret that much of the success and identity of our community is derived from Miami and we believe that much of the charm of Miami is influenced by the character of Oxford,” he noted.

Miami University is also the largest employer in the area, with nearly 4,500 employees, most of whom live in the local community and contribute to the daily economy and culture.  During the school year, about 18,00 students also join the community which affords Oxford many amenities of a larger city while keeping its small-town appeal.  

An overhead view of Miami University’s scenic campus.

Cropenbaker talks about how Oxford and Miami have a collaborative and ever-revolving relationship that focuses on improving both the city and university. 

“Recent successes include the emerging College@Elm project, the continued development of the Oxford Area Trail System, the installation of a historical marker as part of the Truth and Reconciliation project, our partnership in tackling local climate initiatives, as well as many infrastructure and capital projects,” he explains. “Trying to capture all the positive results of the Town-and-Gown relationship between Oxford and Miami would be an endless task.”

Conscious placemaking efforts that connect Oxford and Miami include design elements such as the use of red brick in city architecture and the planting of trees native to the area.

This last year, Oxford has worked hard to remain at the leading edge in combating COVID-19.  Oxford worked directly with Miami University and local healthcare providers on a host of public health measures, from reporting and tracking positive cases to documenting potential “spreader events”.  The city created a COVID hotline to assist community members seeking vaccinations, talking them through the signup process, and even securing transportation to and from appointments. 

The City of Oxford also took several steps to support local businesses during the pandemic. They created easy-to-follow signage explaining local restrictions for the businesses to put in their stores, provided hand sanitizing stations to anyone that wanted one, and launched a “shop small” campaign.

The City of Oxford has continued to support small and local businesses during COVID-19. Via The City of Oxford.

The future of Oxford is bright and holds plenty of opportunities for both the city and the university.  Cropenbaker talks about some of the projects Oxford has coming up, such as the development of a solar field, which would redevelop a closed sanitary field.  The previously mentioned College@Elm project would accomplish several transformative goals.  The Fischer Group plans to be the primary tenant of this facility and would bring around 50 new jobs to the community in the manufacturing sector.

 “The presence of the Fischer Group, along with the influence of Miami and educational departments like engineering, entrepreneurship, and more would help fuel Miami’s development of their innovation and workforce development centers,” says Cropenbaker. 

The City of Oxford is also experiencing a boom in the real estate market, with several housing developments quickly emerging to serve non-student residents.  Officials hope to entice first-time homeowners and empty-nesters alike, enticing new businesses to set up shop in the area.  

With Miami returning to in-person classes this fall, Oxford is excited to welcome back the student population with a return to more than just “back to normal”. The university will have a record number of students in the incoming class, adding even more members to the Oxford community.  At the time of this writing, the city and state have lifted all COVID restrictions while still encouraging safety and common-sense practices.  In preparation for the return of students this August, several businesses that had been temporarily closed are now reopening.  

Learn more about the City of Oxford at

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