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Published: Thursday, 8/12/2004

Bryan strives to build appeal

BY KIM BATES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Some towns just have that desired draw, he says, be it from the type of stores it offers to an overall quaint feel.

Leaders in Bryan are working this week to make sure that same allure exists in their city, with the help this week of a downtown assessment resource team from the Columbus-based Heritage Ohio.

"We look around and we might think [our town] is OK, but we're looking from the inside," said Mr. Sinacola, president of the Bryan Area Chamber of Commerce. "We don't want to get to the point where it's not OK."

The Heritage Ohio group arrived in the Williams County seat yesterday, first for a tour of the downtown core. The visit will continue today with workshops planned for about 50 local leaders, business owners, lawyers, and other local residents.

Mr. Sinacola, who owns the Sign-A-Rama franchise on West High Street, was the one to suggest seeking the assistance of Heritage Ohio. The group will give feedback to leaders while in Bryan, and also submit a comprehensive report

to chamber leaders at a later date.

"We want to create an atmosphere where people come through town and want to be here," Mr. Sinacola said. "Long term, we want it to flourish. We want to create the right kind of feel for the downtown."

Dan Yahraus, executive director of the Bryan Area Chamber of Commerce, said the Bryan Retail Merchants Association, the Bryan Development Corp., and the chamber combined funds to sponsor the team's trip to town.

He said their visit marks the first such downtown study to be conducted in Bryan since 1976, when Ohio State University provided an assessment to former leaders.

At that time, changes were made in Bryan to make it more attractive, from making signs user-friendly to planting more trees in the area.

Mr. Yahraus said he doesn't know what suggestions might come their way during this study. He added that the downtown already has its bragging points, such as a downtown square that has a focal point in its county courthouse.

Stores and restaurants surround the courthouse, and festivals and Christmas events annually are held right in the courthouse square.

Aside from the Heritage Group report, upgrades already are under way in the downtown core, Mr. Yahraus said.

Next month, the first phase of a restoration effort will begin at the 115-year-old courthouse.

The building, constructed after the original, 1840s courthouse was torn down, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Mr. Yahraus said chamber leaders also are spearheading an effort to bring new lighting to the area.

Contact Kim Bates at:

kimbates@theblade.com

or 419-337-7780.



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