Sunday, December 05, 1999

Florence's Main Street reopens

Work done; dedication set for today

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FLORENCE — For most of this year, Main Street has been struggling. Business owners have lost money because of construction, and the city lost the street's historic anchor to fire.

        But after months of construction hassles and about $1.5 million in renovations, the street is having its grand re-opening this weekend.

        Many business owners complained about losing money because of the lack of parking and the difficulty patrons had maneuvering around the orange barrels.

        Another blow came in October, when of one of Main Street's oldest buildings — which held the Garten Haus Restaurant, Bessler's Economy Market, the Florence Barber Shop and a computer store — was destroyed by fire.

        Now it's time to look forward, some business owner say, and although damp weather may have kept the crowds from coming Saturday, business has been picking up.

        “It's nice,” said Mike Mardis, owner of Stringtown Barber Shop, on Main Street for 35 years. “It's pretty, and ev erybody is glad to get it over with.”

        Artist Sheila Lubbers presented her exhibit, “Dollshow,” at the Rosebrook Art Center. Patrons got a visit from Santa. Carolers from Ryle and Boone County high schools serenaded as shoppers passed.

        Danny Perkins, owner of Touch of Class Furniture Gallery, said he sent out 10,000 invitations to the grand opening and his open house.

        “Our business has picked up a lot because people can move up and down the street now,” he said.

        The city has finished three of six phases in the Main Street streetscape plan. The sidewalks are now brick, there are islands in the road, and there are no longer overhead utility lines. Phases 4, 5 and 6 have not yet been funded. Florence City Council will take up the issue during the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

        Florence Mayor Diane Ewing Whalen said the city will do some landscaping in the spring, but the big-ticket items such as decorative banners, street lighting and architectural elements such as district signs, a gateway pavilion and gateway stone walls will have to wait.

        Today,Ms. Whalen will host a formal dedication of the project, which has been three years in the making.

        Activities begin at noon with the Tri-City YMCA's open swim and gym featuring treats and entertainment. The dedication is from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.


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