Downtown makeover guidelines bestowed

April 27, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The Waynesboro Borough Council last week agreed to apply for $85,000 of state grant money on behalf of the nonprofit Main Street Waynesboro Inc. to allow for the hiring of a downtown manager.

John Bry, an experienced downtown manager who now works for the nonprofit Pennsylvania Downtown Center, addressed Main Street Waynesboro Inc. at its annual board meeting Wednesday and provided a glimpse of what's needed to ensure a successful downtown revitalization.

Bry presented his "Confessions of a Main Street Manager" minutes after a Main Street Waynesboro Inc. board member announced approvals are in place to launch state Sen. Terry Punt's program to provide financial incentives for new or expanding businesses.

"We're just waiting for the guidelines, so we can start passing them out and getting people involved," Michael Cermak Jr. said.


The downtown manager will be charged with making the business district a marketing tool for Waynesboro, a resource for residents and a vital marketplace for eating and shopping. The manager also will oversee the facade restoration program, according to a preliminary job description prepared last year.

The council applied for the first two years of grant money. That grant, from the Department of Community and Economic Development, would provide $175,000 over a five-year period and required Main Street Waynesboro Inc. to solicit pledges of at least $90,000.

Bry, who was a Main Street manager in the Midwest for 10 years, feels Waynesboro someday could be a contender for the National Main Street Award won in 2005 by Frederick, Md.

He addressed the board "to tell you my good, bad and ugly stories," and shared the evolution of Main Streets in the communities of Flora, Ill., and Urbana, Ohio.

Bry explained the 20/60/20 division that Waynesboro will encounter as it launches revitalization efforts. Twenty percent of the community will support the efforts from the start, 60 percent will be neutral, but curious, and 20 percent will hate the idea, he said.

However, eventually successful Main Street efforts spill over into residential neighborhoods in a concept known as the Elm Street Program, Bry said.

Bry said he moved to Pennsylvania in part because of Elm Street initiatives launched by legislation signed by Gov. Ed Rendell in February 2004.

"The ripple effect happens all around," Bry said.

In exchange, sprawl outside of town, such as that occurring in Washington Township, Pa., affects the downtown, Bry said.

The difference between economic development and economic displacement is that, with economic development, large retailers don't "kill off" the downtown, he said.

Those large retailers know how to stock their shelves correctly because they know their customers, and, in the same way, Main Street Waynesboro Inc. will need to know its "customers," Bry said.

He encouraged all of the members of Main Street Waynesboro Inc. to learn about community planning.

Bry said that often, people pushing for revitalization want to revert to a time they remember from their youth, but the town will never look like that again. Those businesses are gone and the market has changed, he said.

"One of the quickest ways to kill your Main Street program or downtown revitalization are some phrases (like), 'We've never done that before,' 'We've always done it like this,' or my personal favorite, 'We've tried it before and it didn't work,'" Bry said. "If you're going to be constantly thinking like that, you're really going to struggle to get your Main Street program (running)."

Officials with Main Street Waynesboro Inc. have said they want to hire a downtown manager by the end of the year.

Things to remember

  • Not everyone's going to like the revitalization efforts.

  • Know your customers.

  • Don't become dependent on state aid.

  • You don't have to do big projects to make a splash.

  • The town has to get behind the endeavors.

  • R&D is not necessarily just research and development, but more so rip off and duplicate.

  • It takes time. You're not going to transform downtown overnight.

  • Get creative.

  • Historic preservation is a big deal.

  • Bring in youth.

Source: John Bry of the Pennsylvania Downtown Center

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