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Consultants, commission discuss ways to revitalize Boonsboro

January 21, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

BOONSBORO - Consultants held a meeting Monday night with the Boonsboro Economic Development Commission and other residents to talk about ideas for revitalizing downtown, including possibly taking advantage of the presence of a famous writer.

The town has used its funds plus a $25,000 state grant to pay for a $49,100 contract for downtown revitalization work by Mary Means & Associates Inc. of Alexandria, Va.

Means and others from her consulting firm have been meeting with government and business representatives, as well as residents, to talk about downtown and how it can be improved.

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Part of the process has been to determine what people think downtown is lacking and what they want changed.

At Monday's meeting, three consultants presented a variety of ideas to the Boonsboro Economic Development Commission, members of the Boonsboro Town Council and others in the audience of about 25 people.

Mayor Charles "Skip" Kauffman Jr. and others told the consultants they have discussed some of the ideas conceptually but they want the consultants to show them, on a practical level, how they can be done.

"Give us the ways and means," he said.

The consultants said they will begin work soon on a draft plan that would give the town "the toolbox," the ways in which improvements can be made. The plan will include illustrations and give the town options to consider, such as whether it wants to seek a theme or logo for the downtown area.

A draft of the plan should be ready for review by town officials in about a month, the consultant said.

Jinni Benson, a senior associate with the firm, used famous romance writer Nora Roberts to illustrate challenges with the downtown.

Benson proposed that the town organize "romance weekends," during which people come for a book signing by Roberts or other authors at Turn the Page Bookstore, then stay in the area to dine in restaurants and stay in bed and breakfasts.

The town is missing out on good opportunities if it does not have those businesses open at the right times, she said. But if it does, it will help the downtown's reputation and the town will benefit from good word-of-mouth, she said.

The town has some of the needed resources for a strong downtown, including plenty of traffic, and drivers recognizing that they are entering a downtown area and reducing speed, the consultants said.

But now the town needs to be sure it has the needed attractions and facilities to ensure the drivers will stop and find parking, they said.

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