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Group making pitch for money to boost downtown Waynesboro

October 02, 2005|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, PA.

The efforts of MainStreet Waynesboro Inc., a group of business owners and citizens, could come to fruition in less than a month, when an application is sent to the state for a $175,000 grant.

In addition to seeking the grant, Waynesboro wants to be designated as an official Pennsylvania MainStreet community.

The application goes to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development through its Downtown Center program.

If it is approved - a decision is expected by the end of the year - Waynesboro can hire a professional manager to bring in new business, retain those already here and promote the downtown.

Waynesboro's MainStreet program goes back to 1996, when some interested residents, facing a dying downtown, wanted to start an effort to revitalize the commercial and residential district.

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The district's boundary begins at Fairview Avenue, and runs east along Main Street to Clayton Avenue. The boundary goes one block north and south of Main Street to the north side of Second Street and the south side of North Street.

The group made some progress over the years. Trees were planted downtown and MainStreet members worked with the Greater Waynesboro Chamber of Commerce on annual Christmas programs, but the lack of money thwarted the main goal of revitalization, borough officials have said.

Enter the Pennsylvania Downtown Center, a Harrisburg-based nonprofit whose business is helping small communities develop successful MainStreet programs.

About a year ago, William Fontana, the center's executive director, met with a group of local residents.

Four "visioning" meetings to be attended by residents, local officials and business owners were scheduled for January, February and March to identify the downtown's problems and come up with solutions to fix them.

More than 125 people showed up for the first meeting.

Many volunteered for the committees - promotions, organization, design and economic restructuring.

The three subsequent meetings also were well-attended and the committees remained intact through the summer.

Each one is drafting a five-year plan that will form the basis for the final application to the Department of Community and Economic Development.

Three committees completed their reports and the fourth is nearly done, said MaryBeth Hockenberry, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of MainStreet's economic restructuring committee.

Jim Fisher, secretary of MainStreet's board of directors, is preparing the application's cover letter.

If the grant is approved, the Downtown Center will give Waynesboro $175,000 over five years to launch its revitalization program. The local residents already have come up with the required $90,000 match, said Ernie Brockmann, chairman of MainStreet's organization committee.

The money would be used to pay the salary and benefits for the downtown manager. The grant also would be used to pay for office space and other revitalization effort expenses.

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