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Ideas vary for ways to help downtown Waynesboro area

January 25, 2005|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - About 75 Waynesboro-area residents huddled around 10 tables at the Elks Club Monday night and listed their community's good and bad points as fodder for another list on how Waynesboro can embrace the good and drop the bad.

It was the second of four community meetings run by Ed LeClear, a consultant with the Pennsylvania Downtown Center, a nonprofit Harrisburg, Pa., group that helps communities in the state with economic and social revitalization efforts.

In this case, it's helping MainStreet Waynesboro Inc. launch a local effort to reverse the downward trend that has loomed over the downtown area for a couple of decades or more.

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LeClear said he has been pleased with Waynesboro's response.

"This is a great group," LeClear said. The first meeting was held Jan. 6. The next two will be at the Elks Club on Feb. 21 and 28.

"They are really engaged," he said. "No one person is dominating any one table and everybody has an idea. These will be the people who will eventually volunteer to make it happen."

LeClear passed out large sheets of blank paper to each table and asked those sitting at them to list opinions on Waynesboro's assets, liabilities and reasons why people and businesses should move into the area.

Renfrew Museum and Park made just about every list, as did the area's cost of living, the low rent and the many vacant buildings ready to be renovated and reused.

The community's place in history made every list.

Beyond that, lists varied widely from the proximity of the Appalachian Trail that crosses Pa. 16 east of the borough to Waynesboro's proximity to Harpers Ferry, W.Va., the Washington-Baltimore metropolitan areas, interstates 70 and 81 and the fact that it's midway between Civil War battlefields in Gettysburg, Pa., and Antietam.

The borough's architectural inventory made most lists, too.

At one point, LeClear asked participants, "If you were going to manage downtown, what kind of businesses would you like to see move in?"

The list began with the negative aspects of what's already here, including the poor mix of business types, a need for building facelifts, parking woes and the negative attitude of local business owners and government officials, among others.

They listed the need for a coffee shop, delis, bakery, music store, high-end restaurants, specialty retail shops, better antique stores, art galleries, a higher education facility, a microbrewery, toy store, carriage rides, an outdoor store and a "country and western dance hall that serves a good steak."

The next meeting will test the mettle of the volunteers who will be asked to sign up for one of four committees that will begin to do the actual work at getting the revitalization effort moving.

The committees include organization, promotions, design and the toughest, the economic restructuring of downtown Waynesboro.

The four "vision" meetings are part of the requirements for MainStreet Waynesboro Inc. to apply for a $175,000 matching grant over five years to hire an expert to come in and do the things they are talking about at the January and February meetings.

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