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Published: Wednesday, 2/16/2005

Perrysburg: Vibrancy key to planned Main Street


Perrysburg residents concerned about maintaining a vibrant business district in the city's downtown pledged last week to spend time and money on the first step toward a Main Street program.

Residents and business owners said they are committed to hosting a study of the downtown and a workshop on improving the city. The event, which could take place as early as this summer, would cost an estimated $5,000.

"It's a second set of eyes looking at downtown Perrysburg. I think it's a great idea," said Karen Irwin, president of the Downtown Merchants Association.

The event, called a Downtown Assessment Resource Team visit, is the first step toward establishing a Main Street program.

Communities all over the country have developed Main Street programs to promote and revitalize their downtowns. In northwest Ohio, Toledo, Bowling Green, and Sandusky have Main Street programs. Waterville is in the initial stage of becoming a Main Street community.

A 2001 update to Perrysburg's comprehensive plan recommended that the city consider establishing a Main Street program.

Main Street programs are based on a four-part approach to downtown revitalization that was developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The strategy focuses on organization, promotion, design, and economic restructuring.

The downtown assessment visit would be organized by Downtown Ohio, Inc., a non-profit group that oversees Main Street programs around the state. Three experts on downtown revitalization would evaluate Perrysburg's downtown and give a one-day workshop to interested residents on the basics of keeping a downtown strong.

Perrysburg plans to pay for $2,500 of the cost of the visit, and residents and businesses agreed to pay the other half. The Downtown Merchants Association said it would donate $1,000, and Larry Dillin, a local property owner who developed Levis Commons, said he would give $500. Members of the Perrysburg Area Chamber of Commerce and Historic Perrysburg also said they wanted to be involved with the visit.

"We'd like to take a leadership role in supporting this cause," said Kate MacPherson, vice president of Historic Perrysburg. "It's a great way of preserving our sense of community and our history."

After the downtown assessment visit, Perrysburg will be able to decide whether to become a full-fledged Main Street community with a board and a full-time staff person devoted to overseeing downtown. Local residents and businesses would need to contribute money to support the program.

"Main Street programs have been very successful, but [they do] require a long-term commitment from the community," said Rick Thielen, the city's planning and zoning administrator. "I'm looking at the more important part right now as having someone come into the community for the study and focus us on what needs to be done."

Mr. Thielen organized last week's community meeting on the Main Street program. He said city officials will help with the program, but residents and business owners need to take the lead role.

"I think many people are concerned about downtown," Matt Skotynsky, president-elect of the chamber of commerce, said. "This program is exciting. It's something that's long overdue."

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