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Residents create vision for downtown Waynesboro

March 22, 2005|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - What has been a lengthy three-month process to launch an effort to revitalize downtown Waynesboro is now in the hands of volunteers who will do the actual work.

The goal of the grass-roots effort - remaking downtown into a viable business community - is being done with help from the Pennsylvania Downtown Center, a nonprofit organization in Harrisburg, Pa., that assists small towns with revitalization efforts.

Representatives from the center ran all four sessions, called visioning meetings. Their goal was to have volunteers create a vision of what they want their community to look like in the future.

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William Fontana, the center's executive director, ran Monday's session.

Main Street Waynesboro Inc. requested the center's help.

"This will succeed because the time is right," said MaryBeth Hockenberry, executive director of the Greater Waynesboro Chamber of Commerce. "I have the sense that people in the community are willing to do the work. There's going to be a lot of cooperation between the (local) government, the chamber and Main Street Waynesboro Inc."

"It won't be done overnight, but I think this will work out," said Charles "Chip" McCammon, Waynesboro Borough Council president. "We all have to work together."

Downtown property owners will have to do their part by limiting what they charge for rent so business owners who rent from them can make a living, he said.

McCammon said the council should not play a role in the revitalization.

"We all want to see the downtown be revitalized, but the council doesn't have time to get involved," he said.

The first meeting, held in January, drew 125 local residents, business owners, government and quasi-government officials. Attendance at the three consecutive meetings averaged more than 75 people.

The volunteers listed the community's liabilities and assets and focused on what they saw as being needed to make Waynesboro an active business community again.

A major goal is the hiring of a professional to manage the program, recruit and retain business, organize special events and create a positive image of Waynesboro.

The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development will put up $175,000 over five years to hire the manager and set up an office. The required local match is $90,000, also to be appropriated over five years. Ernie Brockmann, a Main Street Waynesboro member, said nearly $50,000 has been collected or pledged locally.

Fontana said the goal is to make the downtown a place where residents and those in outlying areas can come to shop, eat, find entertainment and socialize.

"Attracting tourists will be secondary," he said.

"If we stick with it, the results will be dramatic," said Kay Hoffman, outgoing Main Street Waynesboro president.

All involved agreed that the project will take years to accomplish.

Members of the five visioning committees - organization, design, theme, economic restructuring and promotions - broke into their respective committees following Monday's meeting and began to get down to the real work.

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